Flowers in My House

There are flowers in my house.  We had a celebration on Sunday afternoon (1/9)–a simple meal, a crumbling (but yummy) homemade cake to cheer a much-loved husband into his next year of life.  I scrambled to dust and sweep and remove the grime from the refrigerator door–hoping with each swipe that everyone does this in the minutes before guests arrive.  Last Friday, into the grocery store I trooped my two little men (zipped into puffy coats that always rub against the winter crud of everyone’s vehicle).  I had finally decided that the birthday cake would be a Boston Cream this year.  I needed eggs, flour, and unexpectedly, the small bouquet of white carnations for only $1.99.  Now, there are flowers in my house.

 My mom is great at “keeping house.”  Sometimes I wish she wasn’t so good so I wouldn’t have to feel like an incompetent lug when dishes pile up and the bed goes unmade for days.  (Important Note: Mom never tries to make me feel like an incompetent lug.  In fact, she constantly reminds me that I don’t remember the days when my sister and I were tiny girls and Mom scrambled around trying to gather toys before Daddy got home, and the drywall dust from Dad’s latest home project covered everything like powdered sugar on a warm brownie.)  When Mom has cleaned her whole house, leaving tidy vacuum tracks in the dining room carpet, she lights candles.  I also light candles after a good cleaning, but best of all, I love to have flowers in my house.

That bouquet of $1.99 carnations brought a little extra life to our kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.  Three small vases of white blooms remind me of the growth that happens even in these winter months.  They remind me that a celebration has happened here.  Almost a week later, the tidy vases still bring a note of festivity to a January home. 

(Oh…I should admit that I learned the flower trick from my mom, too!)

The Hunt

One of my favorite traditions is choosing a Christmas tree from the farm.  We’ve taken my little guys to hunt for a Christmas tree every year–even when they were tiny babes in our arms, wrapped and wrapped and wrapped against the winter chill.  After choosing just the right tree–not too tall, not too fat, just the right shade of green–we ride back to the barn for hot chocolate and a few minutes by the pot belly stove.  The “shop” isn’t fancy.  The hot chocolate is just a 50 cent Styrofoam cup with powder and blazing hot water, but we love every minute!

This year we selected a lovely blue spruce.  Maybe others are bothered by pine needles and sap in the house, but I adore waking up on the day after the tree goes up.  I love to come downstairs and take a big breath of piney, Christmas air.  The smell is fresh, clean, and almost spicey.  My “helpers” put on all the ornaments themselves.  In other words, all ornaments are on the lower three feet of the tree.  I love it!  (Though I confess that I did spread out the pretties later.)

February Days


I love living in a place that has distinct seasons. This blog has only chronicled one autumn and a piece of one winter so far, but if you stick around long enough, you will notice that I can rattle on and on about the beauty of each season–the characteristics, the objects that make their way into our lives for a moment and pass by again. I love the transitions from one season to the next. I try to live in the moment (cliché alert!), but honestly, when I saw this picnic table on my way home, I longed to fill it with a basket of tomatoes from the farmers’ market, a pan of brownies, and kids in shorts. I want to plop myself in the grass with picture books and maybe even take off my shoes. But since I do want to enjoy the right-now, here is what we’ve been up to:

With many hours of indoor time, we’ve had to resist the temptation to make the DVD player our new best friend.  Instead, we’ve baked.  We’ve had banana bread, homemade calzones, wheat bread, and chocolate chip cookies. 

We made Valentines, and one dear preschooler mastered the art of writing his first name.  Way to go, little guy! 

I’ve enjoyed having a few more opportunities for knitting, too.  I’m finding the sweet pastels and whites hold a special appeal right now.  And since my knitting gets pulled from room to room, I’m leaving a trail of fresh, airy, clean color.  Now, I just wish the beautiful cleanliness of my knitting could rub off on my clutter!  Being inside is also making me ultra-aware of the stuff of our lives.  I’m ready to do some major organizing.

Despite feeling a bit cooped up and looking at the laundry pile with much disdain, our family is enjoying the coziness of being semi-homebound together.  We’ve had to stretch our patience (me!) and our imaginations as we search for ways to fill our February days.  Silly fun abounds!

Happy Groundhog Day

As a native Pennsylvanian, this day really makes me smile.  Such a funny little holiday.  No matter what Phil has to say, winter does come to its natural end.  In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the things that make winter special…warm blankets, soup, frosty windows, lots of hot tea, and early sunsets. 

I accompanied my preschooler to his class this morning.  I read Groundhog’s Day at the Doctor by Judy Delton to  the students, and then my son and I passed out the groundhog cookies that we had made the night before.  It was a fun visit!

(Note: When I began writing this post, it actually was February 2nd!)

A Winter Night

Last night, we stayed at my parents’ home because our furnace has stopped working.  Period.  So we moved from the frustration of trying to be grown-ups who want to provide warmth and safety for our kids to the comfort of having parents who make homemade soup and tend the fire.  With our boys tucked into bed, Mom, Dad, my hubby, and I enjoyed conversation and true relaxation.  Just before we put ourselves to bed, mom called us to the window.   A full moon lit the sky and everything it touched with a bluish glow.  Backlit by that gorgeous moon, trees cast tremendous silver shadows across the snow.  The world looked so bright and so clean in the unusual mix of light and shadow.  I could have stood a very long time gazing out at the yard, but we had had a long day.  Bed sounded too good.

I slept in my childhood bedroom.  Some things remain the same there.  My rack of Taekwondo belts still hangs near the door.  My case of ceramic and glass figurines is displayed next to the bed as it was for most of my youth.  A wooden cat sits above the door chasing a mouse on a long stretch of twine.  My four poster twin bed has been replaced by a double bed, and in it, I slept with an eighteen month old little boy.    As I lay in my old bedroom listening to my baby sleeping next to me, I looked out to the roof of the picnic pavilion that stands in the backyard.  During the winters of childhood, I would wake myself up through the night to look out at that roof, hoping to see snow beginning to pile up and confirm the hope of a Snow Day home from school.  On this night, a school cancellation wasn’t in question, but the magic of the anticipation was there nonetheless.

What’s been going on…

The last week has been filled with the things that make life rich and the things that make life real.  To begin, our furnace has been acting funny for a few weeks—the kind of funny that makes you tilt your head, listen carefully, and hope that you are imagining the recurring humming/buzzing/whirring sound that emanates from the basement. The furnace was at the forefront of our minds until last Sunday (January 10) when some bitter weather caused our pipes to freeze.  For about a day, we had no running water.  Then the bathroom seemed to recover.  A few days later, the kitchen started working.  We thought we were in the clear until my hubby noticed a damaged and spraying pipe in the basement.  Ugh.  So there was a lot of tinkering, hair-dryer-blowing, and praying!  Finally, water returned, and the repaired pipe held fast.

 Yep…the ordeal was tiresome, frustrating, annoying.  But call me “Pollyanna”—good did come from the ordeal.  On Wednesday evening—with the water officially turned off by the water authority—we stay at my in-laws for the night.  We toted a bag of clothes and a bulging sack of laundry for an evening of relaxing and enjoying American Idol while the boys played with Grandma’s toys (Why are her toys so much better?).  Instead of my constant tidying and jumping up to fix one thing or another, I played a fun, uninterrupted game of “dinosaur” with my sweet kiddos.  My older boy said, “You’re fun today, Mommy.”  An important lesson! 

 We spent Thursday night with my parents, and again, I noticed certain refreshment in being surrounded by love and comfort and running water.  So I guess you could say that I liked being a kid again!  I went to a Taekwondo class after several weeks of close to no real exercise (lugging a 20+ pound toddler on my hip is almost exercise), and I returned to Mom and Dad’s house with tired muscles and a wonderful sense of satisfaction.

 

While my husband and I were fussing about the inconvenience of frozen pipes and all that goes with such trouble, a tremendous earthquake hit Haiti.  If you’ve glimpsed a TV, caught a moment of a radio broadcast, or even logged on to any major website in the last week or so, you have a sense of the depth and breadth of the devastation in an already troubled country.  What a  powerful reminder of the blessings in my life.  Haiti suffered from the fall-out of a corrupt government even before the ground shook beneath them.  I don’t always like the workings of my county’s government, but I know that avenues exist for my voice to be heard.  I believe that despite political disagreements and differences of judgment on issues of moral weight, we all want the greatest good for rich and poor alike.  I do not feel guilty for being upset over my water pipes and the rust sludge still clogging my washing machine; I feel grateful for in-laws who order pizza and let us use their laundry room and so much more.  I feel grateful for a Mom who washed up a batch of flannel sheets and made up cozy beds for the four of us and a Dad who retrieved a fresh tank of spring water for our visit (more about that later).  Sure, troubles come our way; money is as tight as it has ever been, but I lead a rich life.  I have friends, food, a God above, and the assurance of a steadfast family.

Warmth

I love winter because I love its opposite: warmth.  I love mugs of tea and hot chocolate.  I love chunky scarves and my white wool mittens.  I love soup and slippers and my down comforter.  I love my cuddly husband and the fact that he doesn’t mind me putting my icy feet against him as we fall asleep.  You know my favorite thing about winter?   I love the fires Dad builds in the potbelly stove.  Now that’s warmth…the physical and figurative kind.  As soon as I walk into my parents’ home, I head for the stove.  I stand so close and so long that I sometimes have to jump away with a little yelp.  But it feels wonderful.  I can’t help thinking of the part in Little Women when Jo is scolded for singeing her dress by standing too close to the fire.  That little stove equals family and comfort.  It also represents hard work.  For my entire life, I’ve watched my dad build fires in the potbelly stove.  He gathers kindling, pieces of wood and scraps of newspaper.  He slowly and carefully builds a fire that will last indefinitely.  He tends that stove like a baby—sprinkling coal, checking the draft, and shaking down the ashes several times each day.  Mom, of course, is an integral part of the system, too.  On many occasions, she’ll end our phone conversation with an announcement that she “better go.  Dad doesn’t want the fire to go out,” and she’ll hang up to add a bit of coal.  It’s quite a routine, but the results are a long-lasting, toasty source of heat that keeps the whole house warm.  Sometimes too warm!  It’s not a surprise to see Mom cracking the doors a bit on a January evening. 

The little potbelly stove reminds me that my parents went to a lot of trouble to keep me warm, safe, healthy, and happy.  More than that, they provided a life that wasn’t ordinary.  They taught me that the usual way of doing things isn’t always the best way, that a little extra work is worth the results, and that building a simpler life leads to a closer family and a greater appreciation for God’s blessings.  I’m trying to create that kind of life for my husband and my sons.  It’s a struggle to fight against the typical American lifestyle, but I’m doing my best to keep our focus on the things that matter, to keep those little hands and little minds busy with creativity and love.