31 August 2012

urban hiking

well, we are faced with a long weekend, friends. three glorious days with no agenda so we are packing up the family ride and taking the brothers utley to the city of brotherly love. 

pfff. it's a mere 3 hour's drive northward and en route we'll stop at one of my dreamed about places, terrain for lunch with a much needed siiiiiigh. o, it does make me swoon.

our hiking shoes will come in handy as we venture to independence hall, catch a glimpse of the liberty bell, run up the stairs of the philadelphia art museum {hmmm. i wonder if anyone else will be doing that? harry has been practicing.}, break our necks to view the dead sea scrolls, reminisce over trumpet of the swan as we stroll the philadelphia zoo {wonder if any of louis' great grand cynets are there}, hopefully find one of those amazing philly cheesesteak trucks my friend sarah told me to try. and sneak toward the apple store {which according to my calculations is only .5 mile from our hotel}.

all in all, i'd say we have a hike ahead of us. but a fun city hike as opposed to our usual trail. here's hoping your extra long weekend is extra great.


29 August 2012

listen up

listen. if there is something i beg myself to do is to listen-more. i am too quick to speak. too quick to scold. too quick to correct. too quick to admonish. too quick to blame. too quick to judge. but i wane when it comes to listening. it is a slower process. listening. it requires more. to be present. not just be quiet, but be engaged. hearing what is being said.

i came across this transcript of a conversation with my oldest over lunch. it was dated.


him: there are more emotions besides happy, sad, mad, glad, scared. there are emotions called guilt and pressure.

me: what do you mean by 'pressure'?

him: like stress.

me: what about 'guilt'?

him: there is real guilt, survivor's guilt and potential guilt.

me: hmmmm...

him: yeah. potential guilt is like what george feels when he almost does something wrong.

me: hmmm....

him: survivor's guilt is like what robinson crusoe experienced.

this little lunchtime exchange that was quickly jotted down on a yellow legal pad and then haphazardly filed away to be unearthed 3 years later is physical evidence of my listening. rare.

and here is one more...


me: when was the last time you washed your hands?

him: o, i have washed my hands like...twice today.

{it was late in the day}

me: they smell bad.

him: they smell like angel's poop.

me: and what does that smell like?

him: hershey's kisses.

{this is the same child who when he was 6 said, "it is my instinct to poo in the wild."}

today. more listening. less of everything else. 


27 August 2012

tooth scary

when our youngest child was born my friend katie was with me in the operating room {i have 4 big boys all born via caesarean section}. katie is a nurse and requested to be on the schedule to be with me on that fateful day {i love you for that, katie!}. she handed him to my Mister, telling me, "he's perfect except those teeth." ack! visions of a horror movie i once heard about, but was too chicken to watch shot into my mind as i panicked, "MY CHILD WAS BORN WITH TEETH?!" how. unnatural. 

i mean i had read about it i think in a book once hadn't i? but did it really happen? obviously it did. and my little baby had two bottom teeth to prove it. our pediatrician had only seen it once before in his many long years of practice. what about nursing? what about...it all melted when i saw this glorious yummy baby boy. 
scary baby

he was the youngest of my boys to visit a dentist {at the whopping age of 8 months}. apparently in years gone by, dentists have felt the need to pull the natal teeth. my little guy kept his until this past weekend.

a couple of weeks ago the littlest came to his father with a wiggly tooth. he was the youngest of our boys to loose a tooth this early {our 13 year old just had two of his baby teeth pulled they were so stubbornly implanted}. his pops took out the pliers {with the littlest's permission} and yanked that tooth right out. the boy gasped and gave a nervous giggle. 

in our household we are a little fuzzy and noncommittal about santa and rabbits who bring you baskets, but the tooth fairy, well s/he is real {we are noncommittal about the gender of the tooth fairy}.so the littlest put his tooth under his pillow to await his monetary booty that he hoped to find the next day. but you see the tooth fairy was pulling a double shift so she forgot. kind of.  "look here, boy. she left it for you on your dresser. silly tooth fairy. she must've suspected you weren't really asleep so she slipped out without leaving the money under your pillow." but when the boy went to fetch his tooth, it was missing. it seems the sentimental tooth fairy took the tooth {sometimes the tooth fairy leaves the tooth. sometimes s/he takes it depending on how heavy her/his load is that night}.

so last night as we were winding down from a very full and eventful weekend, the boy's second natal tooth was about to fall out it was so loose. i was upstairs reading the most entertaining work of fiction when, "mom, let's tie a string around the tooth and the door knob. then shut the door to pull it this time." {do your children burst into your room talking?} so we did. and he exclaimed, "it worked!"

the tooth that he was born with barely bigger than a pin head was carefully washed and placed in gigantic plastic bag to go under his pillow with the following instructions. "have her leave the money IN the bag." but he had more on his mind.

"mom, last time the tooth fairy only left me a quarter. harry got like a dollar. and harry said i should ask the toooooth fairy for moooooore money. like 25 dollars."  {this is the same brother who bought a soda for a dollar and tried to resell it to his littler brother for 3 dollars}i laughed at the brotherly conspiracy that closely resembled racketeering. "is harry your bookie?" he looked straight at me. 

sometimes i think there is a camera someplace in my house chronicling the lives of this insane brood of boys-as well as writing their lines. 

he rolled his eyes and said, "just make sure the tooth fairy leaves more money this time, will ya? like...5 dollars. make it 4, okay? but tell her this time, i want to KEEEEEP my tooth." 

i blinked, "so let me get this straight, you want the tooth fairy to leave your tooth AND leave you a sizable sum of cash? what does she get?" silence. 

as i mentioned earlier i have been reading a lot of spellbinding  fiction this weekend, one tale about a tooth fetish on the part of a very disturbed troubled little girl so it seemed rather disturbing coincidental that i was lying in bed on a sunday night talking to a little boy about his tooth-into-cash scheme. i tucked him in with a "i will take it under advisement" which is code for "i'll ask your father."

so he went to sleep. and i went back to my novel. 


p.s. the tooth fairy came. s/he {the tooth fairy changes around here according to who's working our zipcode} left 4 quarters in the bag, "but she forgot to zip it back, AND she didn't leave my tooth," complained the boy. 

24 August 2012

vocab lesson

we haven't even officially started our school year, and my oldest is already working on his science vocabulary flashcards. my boy loves science. if science were a girl, i would be concerned about their relationship. 

speaking of vocab words, i am working on four for this school year. they are: calm, cultivate, glad and laugh. i figure if i can spend 180 days focusing on these four words, maybe we have a shot at having a worthwhile school year {with few casualities}. 

speaking of glad, here are the things that make me glad today...

1)the Mister phoned to say he was walking to the library to pick up  two gillian flynn novels for me

2)the younger boys' tutorial was delayed by a couple of weeks which gives me time to indulge in a couple more summer reads, right? isn't that providence?

3)the weekend is here. we are taking baby daddy for a quick hike to the catoctin furnace {the boys and i hiked there a few weeks ago. too gorgeous not to share with pops}.then we'll indulge in a dip in the creek {last time we saw a copperhead-don't tell my mom}.

4)with this unseasonably cool weather, we are having friends up to the cottage-on-the hill for dinner and then a street wide s'more fest in our backyard. chocolate and sticks and fire-in the dark. what more could you ask for?

and what are you glad for this glorious fabulous friday? kindly consider baking these delightful morsels. you will surely make someone very, very glad.


22 August 2012

In Joy

i have begun telling my children to come to the table for our morning reading of the bible "with empty hands". it began out of necessity. their fidgeting became too distracting. yesterday i explained, "we come to god with empty hands". and then i recited a line from a hymn, "nothing to the cross we bring simply to the cross we cling". my hands were held out empty for them to notice. 

it's not that i feel that the only time we can talk to god is when we are prostrate with eyes tightly shut. but i have noticed in myself a casual lack of respect for the one who created me. it really makes me sick to think of my lackadaisical heart. as if i introduce my heavenly father-the creator of the heavens-He who spoke light into existence with a nonchalant, "o, yeah. that's my dad." when i should be reverently grateful for the gift of air and voice and hands that can lift in worship. 

think about all your hands do in a given day. mine type, wipe, clean, write, tickle, hold, rub, stir, grip and push to name a few, but in that list, if i think and squint back over the order of my day, i do not see worship on the list. o, sure. you might encourage, "we worship when we type and wipe and clean and write." and that is true. very, very true. but there is distraction that comes when we are doing other things besides coming to god with EMPTY hands. hands without dishcloths, without pencils, or books or boys or steering wheels. and for that i am deeply sorrowful. of all the time i did not come to god with my whole heart. with my single-minded focus. with my empty hands-so that i could fully grasp how wide and how long and how high and how deep is his love for me. 

o, even now as i confess a sense of shame fills me. but i remember that his mercies are new every morning. that he sets his banner over me with love. and i am compelled to set an intention for my 'morrow. to sit and read and pray and think and gasp at HIS goodness to me that in joy I may enjoy HIM the one who loves us and cherishes us and sings over us and woos us and forgives us and calls us back into his benevolent fellowship. "prone to wander. lord i feel it. prone the leave the god i love. he to rescue me from danger. bought me with his precious blood." that is the song of this wayward girl. 

today as one of my boys confessed, "mom, i cheated on my math. will you sit with me so that if i feel tempted you will be there to remind me?" he began to weep. i offered, "boy, if you are going to mess up, this is the safest place for you to mess up-while you are still home with parents who care about you. who love you." and then i tenderly reminded him of the gospel. "god loves you. he sings over you. he forgives you. but sin {like cheating} robs us of the best life we can live. don't live a cheated life. live an honest life. and when you fail-own it. be restored." and we commenced to re-working those math problems.

i am glad. so glad that the lord sits with me whenever i cheat or feel tempted to cheat on my math life lessons. he is good! "great is thy faithfulness. lord unto me."


20 August 2012

good intentions

yoga has taught me many things. one of the most useful is setting an intention for my practice. this past weekend i did just that. i set an intention {and made a list}.
the Mister took all 4 boys to shenandoah state park for a 5 mile hike {my man is a rockstar} and an overnight stay at the swanky holiday inn. whilst the wildassmonkeys were away, i...

1.painted a set of shelves procured from a garage sale
2.organized the art cabinet
3.watched an episode of Sherlock on Netflix
4.dined on leftover{cold}pizza and popcorn
5.took the dog for a walk
6.planned the schedule for 4 boys for their academic year
7.read over the syllabus for the 8th grader {whilst chanting, "yes, he can. yes, he can."}
8.ordered the boy's alegra books for a mere $20
9.made lunch reservations at this sweet place for when we take the boys to Philly over Labor Day weekend
10.took a cat nap
11.managed to duct tape the cone back onto the dog who underwent a procedure last thursday and needs to wear said cone til his stitches heal
12.organized the bookshelves pulling the books the boys will be reading for the year {i still need to find animal farm and to kill a mockingbird}
13.planned science activities to coordinate with the year's curriculum
14.watched the pilot episode of Lost from 2004{yeah, i am soooo behind the times. it didn't grab me}.
thankfully not LOST
15.read through the 6 year old's reading/spelling curriculum {i hope i am courageous enough to implement it}
16.made myself a banana smoothie {to make up for the pizza/popcorn debauchery}
17.requested some audio books from the library {bay-o-wolf sounds so much funnier than beowulf}
18.reminded myself why i do what i do by rereading a few chapters of this book
19.drank copious amounts of caffeine {red bull-didn't like it} to stay awake
20.didn't leave the house except to run to staples for more school supplies {i have a problem}

it was a glorious, productive 24 hours. and the boys came home exhausted from their traipse in the woods.
good intentions satisfied

p.s.this is the list of a desperate woman who desires a little organization for an upcoming school year that is about to kick {her}arse otherwise don't expect to find me this productive-ever.

17 August 2012

anatomy of a fight

my boys fight. sometimes the Mister will say, "just hug and get it over with." he thinks that wrestling is a boy's way of hugging. somedays i can enjoy the love. other days-not so much. a couple of days ago the two youngest couldn't keep their hands off of one another so i grabbed my camera and commenced to documenting. 

{it doesn't help when the photog/mother can't stop laughing.}

i am exhausted just looking at this ONE example of the many altercations that happen in a given day. i must say the verbal bantering is more exhausting than the physical. with the oldest, he has entered into a new stage of development that we call the dialetic stage. he keeps me on my toes with his push back. and somedays i want to physically push him back-to when he wore a diaper and thought sucking on a pacifier was sublime. 

here's hoping your weekend is peace full. the Mister is taking the wildassmonkeys into the woods for some old fashioned exploring whilst i stay back for some old fashioned lesson planning. this is what we affectionately refer to as  inservice. a weekend for the headmistress to plan the school year. and i'll be planning {to drink some martinis} while i peruse all our books for the upcoming school year. wish me luck!

15 August 2012

happy trails

"the little ones leaped, and shouted and laughed, and all the hills echoed." william blake

cunningham falls

as a child i spent a great deal of time outdoors. we always lived in houses that had something to offer once you walked out the door-be it trees to climb, a pool to swim in, or a pond to cast my cane pole. i have childhood memories of riding my bike around our neighborhood trolling for playmates, jumping my go-cart across a ditch and heading out on all day adventures on my 3-wheeler with my best friend amanda. all of my cherished childhood memories happened in nature or at least outside. 
fall creek falls

every fall we would take a family drive up to the smoky mountains to enjoy the change in color. i would sip a carbonated clear beverage to keep from throwing up {car sick from all the twists in the upward and downward descents}. 
appalachian trail

in college i would venture off campus with my bike for out of the way places sometimes by myself. my favorite was the katy trail. goodness i loved that trail probably because it was beautiful and FLAT. and ran along water. i still remember those happy times either alone or with my friend chris who loved the trail as much as me. but mostly i would steal away to be by myself to think and wander.
c&o canal

one of the things i loved about my husband was his experience on trails, any trail. when we began dating he had had many a wild outdoor adventure including hypothermia that had him sharing a sleeping bag in his skivvies with his best friend jay. 
our first hike to the chimneys
circa 1993

when i moved to east tennessee we often drove the short road to the mountains for a day hike. the chimneys was a favorite climb. that was back when people used maps, and he kept a tattered collection. 
appalachian trail

i cannot imagine life without a trail really. i feel a little like marjorie rawlings when she wrote, "i do not understand how anyone can live without some small place of enchantment to turn to."

montgomery bell state park

it was sad for us to move from the mountains of east tennessee to the flat middle tennessee, but when we did we found our beloved radnor lake, my favorite place in nashville. 
catoctin furnace trail
our boys took their first hike along that scenic trail. it was where i spent many a birthday, alone usually with the fragrance of the newly hewn path made from chipped christmas trees to cheer me. 
cunningham falls state park

as the boys got older, we took them on longer, more out of the way trails: cedars of lebanon, the chimneys, fall creek falls, clingman's dome to name a few. 
the last leg of the maryland section of the A.T.

right now we live with the view of the appalachian trail from our back window. as they practice their math, work on spelling and eat, they do so with the landscape of this most famous trail within their casual glimpse. i often feel this is god's providence.

savage gulf 

the older i get, the more alive i feel when i find myself within a canopy of trees. curious to see where the path will take me. delighted to have the moss and fern to line the towpath. o, can you imagine? 

green ridge state forest

like me, our boys come alive outside. i can see it in their gait. i can hear it in their war cries. they love the large space. no doors to hold them out. no walls to bump up against. it's lovely and full. the other day whilst driving in the country the oldest commented, "wouldn't it be great if we lived out like this?" my heart agreed.
fall creek falls

south mountain state park

these boys who favor their father more than their mother still have specks of me sprinkled through. their love for trees. their interest in trails. their delight in travel. their curiosity in the path and where it leads. i can only hope that it remains as they grow into men who make up their minds and pitch their tents in lands known or unknown. 
sugar loaf mountain

one boy has wistfully shared his desire to become a park ranger when he is older, a fitting choice for my animal loving, wild one and for his sake and mine, i hope that he does.

yesterday we were at the doctor's office. the nurse asked my son what sports he enjoys. "let's see", he began. "i like biking and swimming and hunting-and hiking." and my heart was happy. 
very, very happy. 



13 August 2012

jimmy and sook: a weekend getaway

did you know that a male blue crab is called a "jimmy" and a mature female crab who has mated is called a "sook"? you learn these things when you live close to the east coast {and when you go into a t-shirt shop and strike up a conversation with a shop keeper}. 
bay bridge
enjoying an open house for a place we'll never buy
those cute regatta sailors wore matching rugby shirts. our boys are so going to sailing camp next year!
our little car rode a ferry

closer to our price range
who knew?

sunset. bay. Mister. perfect.

the Mister and i made it to 17 years. to celebrate we got out of town for the weekend to a little place by the bay. o, dear me i adore being near the water. and i adore the Mister who keeps me laughing and fighting and dreaming. and what i am dreaming of now is a little place by the water. hmmm...
what'da ya say, honey. should we go for 17 more?