Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Tale of Two Sisters

This morning we awoke to find a shimmery white blanket draped gently over the city. It was glorious, especially since snow in our area is something of a novelty.

Aidan approached our bed first thing (bearing a remarkable resemblance to Randy from A Christmas Story). He tried to whisper, but couldn't conceal his excitement: "I'm ready to go play in the snow now, Mommy!"

Randy, not Aidan

Once I had groggily ascertained that they were well equipped with hats and gloves, out went my children, tramping through the yard, eager to make . . . a snow dog. I'm not sure why they choose that animal.

Avery, however, was back in a flash -- nose dripping, cheeks like plump red apples. She had had enough. Once I had her cozily soaking in a warm bath, I smiled at the difference in my girls. Bethie was still out there, experimenting with gymnastics in the snow.

I wrapped the fluffy pink Noni towel around Miss Kate and placed her in front of the fire. Then I checked on Bethie who had managed to roll a huge snowball from the backyard to the front.

My Jo and my Beth: Avery, the little cricket who prefers to stay home near the comforting warmth of the hearth (true, she resides there with rather forceful chirping), and Bethie, the adventuresome girl who craves activity and interaction. One just like her mama, the other just like her daddy.

Although I do hope I've outgrown the forceful chirping phase.
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Monday, February 21, 2011

Winter Menu

I know you probably don't want to read a post that has the word "winter" in the title. I'm sorry if I've scared you away -- but don't worry. It's more about the "menu" than the "winter." It just had a nice ring to it.

I also don't want to mislead you with the whole food idea. This is not a food blog -- that is my amazing sister's area of expertise. But I like to organize things. Including food. So here it goes.

I've finally discovered a menu plan that is working well for our family of six. I thought I'd pass it along to any other frazzled kitchen mamas out there who are tired of resorting to cold cereal for dinner (not that there's anything wrong with that . . . ).

Here's the plan:

I schedule three meals for the week. The first is soup (which I double), such as this super-yummy Ham and Potato Soup, this delicious Italian Sausage Soup or this scrumptious Chicken Tortilla Soup. We have it for dinner on Monday and then for lunch during the rest of the week. I can't believe how much time is saved at lunch! I set out the crockpot after breakfast, add Monday's soup, and by noon our lunch is ready. No prep and no scorched pots from failed reheating. It's heavenly.

On Tuesday I double a sandwich-ey or taco-ey type recipe so that on Wednesday (which is our crazy day) Drew has something quick to grab before heading out to youth group and I don't have to worry about pulling together a full dinner. Sometimes I'll begin with a roast on Tuesday (this one was amazing) and then it morphs into French dip on Wednesday (with tater tots, of course. We in the Lawson home are quite fond of tater tots. I tell you I was in raptures when Trader Joe's started to carry them.) This BBQ Pork sandwich recipe is also dee-lish.

That leaves Thursday and Friday. This is where I put the casserole dishes that take a bit more prep time, since my Thursdays are less hectic. So the lasagna, chicken tetrazzini, spaghetti, or meatloaf might end up on the menu toward the end of the week. Most of the recipes are doubled, leaving plenty of leftovers for the weekend. Sometimes that means a few of us have the spaghetti and the others might have the meatloaf, but nothing is wasted and I've found that doubling three recipes is usually more economical than adding a fourth.

I keep a master of family favorites on the computer so that when it comes time to make my menu I can easily pull from the list. Knowing what's for dinner eases up the day considerably. It's happy for the kids, it's happy for the daddy, and it's super happy for the mama. Because we all know that as soon as those lunch dishes are put away, someone is immediately going to ask, "Mommy? What's for dinner?!"

"One of the Family" by Frederich Cotman, 1880
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

In Case You Were Wondering

In case you were wondering, she decided to stay. I'm really quite relieved. She's such a delightful creature.

No, really.

This morning, as Miss Kate and I snuggled in front of the fire after her bath and read Winnie the Pooh, I thanked God for my wild pixie. I know that the spark in her that wants to fight and scream and wail is the same spark that can be channeled and used by her Creator for greatness.

The one who fights can learn to stand firm: "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all." (Isaiah 7:9) The one who screams can learn to boldly proclaim: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16) And the one who wails can learn to have compassion: "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:12)

I am convinced that this must be so. For doesn't God delight in making His strength known in our weaknesses?

Near the warmth of the fire, we read about Christopher Robin and Pooh and the blue balloon and the wrong sort of bees. She's the fourth one to hear me read this story. They've all loved it. But she's the first one to laugh out loud.

Christopher Robin sauntered toward the tree under his umbrella with a "Tut, tut. It's looks like rain!" My pixie nearly burst at the seams.

So did I.
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

{She Wasn't Kidding}

The other day, Little Miss Avery Kate announced her intention to move out of the house. She assured me that she would return daily. For two hours. And then return to her new home. Which would be just down the street. (This was until she realized that it would be more fun to live with our friends, the Knoedlers. I'm still waiting for the okay from Annie.)

I smiled like mothers do when children get such notions.

The next morning during school, three children were busily working away at their sums, prepositions and poetry. One child was not. This is not unusual. Sometimes it's best to let certain people have a bit of solitude. But this was apparently a rather productive time of solitude. When I came upstairs to check on the child who was avoiding a reading lesson, this is what I found:

I guess she wasn't kidding.
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Monday, February 7, 2011


Today is my Nanee's birthday. She is one of the most remarkable, beautiful women I have ever met. She is the inspiration behind the "June" in Petunia June, and the inspiration behind the following poem, penned last summer. Here's a glimpse into my growing-up years with this entrancing lady by my side.


She wore gold shoes.
Her graceful hands
fingered the menu and
She ordered a Palmer for her,
A Shirley Temple for me.
I was entranced.

Gold shoes skimmed
the boardwalk.
We saw Balboa,
ate frozen bananas,
just like Dad.

Her graceful hands
opened her purse,
found a tic-tac.
My tummy was settled,
and I was entranced.

We visited the mission.
Her graceful hands
cupped birdseed.
The swallows came,
and we were entranced.

She sliced a cucumber thin.
Her graceful hands
dipped it into the vinegar.
My lips puckered, smiled,
and I was entranced.

She came in September.
Her gold shoes waltzed
with my Keds.
Bing Crosby crooned,
we swayed,
and I was entranced.

In the cozy evening glow,
Her graceful, tender hands
worked magic.
My every limb succumbed,
and I was entranced.

She wove stories in the air,
Her graceful hands
speaking a language of their own
as worlds came to life.
I was entranced.

We strolled to the end of the street,
Her gold shoes, my Keds,
Graceful hands cupping mine.
The moon hung low,
A fiery orange, harvest orb.

She said we’d always
remember that night.
We do.
And we are entranced.
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Friday, February 4, 2011

A Gem on the Shelf

This afternoon before heading out the door to Bethie's gym class, I grabbed a book from my nightstand. I usually have three or four books going at a time. I like variety. During gymnastics I tend choose a lighter read so I can watch the flips and absorb the syntax simultaneously.

But today I grabbed Annie Dillard. I wouldn't call it heavy reading, but her words are so poetic and intricate and mind-bending that really only a few pages can be absorbed by the human brain at a time. I have picked through her Pilgrim at Tinker Creek before. It's mesmerizing and unusual . . . thoughtful, stark, raw.

The volume I own, given to me by Jamie, is actually a compilation of three of her works. After reading a few pages of Tinker Creek, I flipped to the back to see what The Writing Life had to offer. I was sucked in right away:

When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner's pick, a woodcarver's gouge, a surgeon's probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory . . . .

I know what she's talking about. So often I find myself in new territory as my pen trails ahead of me. I begin with one thought in mind and by the end of the page my words have taken me on an unexpected journey, often with unexpected results and sometimes even with an unexpected change of heart.

As I read, I marveled, "These words have been sitting there on my shelf, waiting to be read. But only now do I discover them. Only now was the time right . . . ."

I had a similar experience a few years ago. I was down with the flu and in desperate need of a diversion. I grabbed the nearest book, which happened to be Heidi. I had never read it and figured I might as well go for it. It was one of the most delightful books I had ever encountered. And there I sat thinking, "This book has been there all along. A gem on the shelf, waiting for just the right moment to make its way into my being, to become a part of who I am." I was thrilled. From that time on, I viewed my book collection differently. What other gems were awaiting discovery?

There are still many unread titles in my home library. I long to someday absorb Anna Karenina and Bleak House, Les Miserables and The Portrait of a Lady. Someday the time will be right. Right now, I'm familiar with their covers. Someday, though, I'll be familiar with their content. Someday those words will make their way into my very self, lines of words digging a path for me to follow, lines of words taking me deep into new territory.
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Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Holy Mountain

Sometimes I wonder how much of my energy is spent on making myself comfortable. Is that really what God has designed me to do? Be comfortable?

This afternoon, as I cupped the chamomile and let the bright January sun spill onto the pages of Isaiah, I was struck by the invitation before me:

"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us His ways, so that we may walk in His paths." Isaiah 2:3

This verse speaks of action, not comfort. It asks me to come. I'm not supposed to sit, be idle or pamper myself. I'm supposed to come. And not only am I to come, but once I'm headed in the right direction, I am to go up a mountain. Did you catch that? A mountain. A mountain, people. Generally, mountains tend to be rather . . . large. And tall. And imposing. Rugged, steep, rocky and all that.

So once I've come, I am to hike about on this precipitous geological feature. While there, I'm also invited to learn something. I'm not supposed to focus on the sharp rocks, the sweltering sun, my labored breathing or the blisters on my feet. No, I'm there to learn. At least that's what's implied if the God of Jacob is to teach me His ways. He teaches, that I may learn.

And why do I learn? So that I can walk.

The walking isn't aimless. I am to walk in His paths. Do you know what that means? It means that He has walked the path before me. Because if there's a path, Someone has been there before. The earth has already been trodden by holy, nail scarred feet. The snares have been removed by nail-scarred hands, the boulders have been shoved aside, the pits have been filled in. So I can walk. In His paths, on His mountain.

I climbed a mountain once. It was big. It took all day. My feet ached and I was tired. But by the time I finally reached the summit and peered into the vast emptiness that used to be a peak, I knew that I had been a part of something amazing. I gazed back over the valley below and saw what I can come through. Where I had been. What I had done. And it was remarkable. The view was breathtaking. But I couldn't have done it if I hadn't come, if I hadn't learned, if I hadn't walked.

Caesar boasted, "Veni, vidi, vici" -- I came, I saw, I conquered. Rather ambitious. But that's not what I want. No, I pray that my boast, while still one of action, while still ambitious, is in the Lord and His holy mountain: "I came, I learned, I walked. Because He conquered."

This mountain climbing, it's hard work. It requires steady, ongoing action. It's not for the faint of heart. What's that you say? Your heart feels faint? Oh, pilgrim, fear not! I know exactly how you feel! This climbing isn't supposed to be done alone. Nor is it to be done without periods of true rest. Indeed we have the ultimate source of strength and rest in Christ: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Mt. 11:28). But as we are refreshed, rested, and made ready for action by His expert training, we'll get a whiff of that fresh mountain air and feel the firm grasp of His hand. And we'll never want to come down again.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Remember Cassette Tapes?

The overhead projector wasn't the only trick I pulled out while the kiddos were under quarantine. Remember cassette tapes? I found an old tape player and a box of cassettes lurking in the garage last week. Another great diversion. I eagerly presented them to a flushed Miss Kate as she reclined on the couch. Her fingers enjoyed pressing down the tabs to make the sound come out, but she was a bit impatient when she realized that rewinding and fast-forwarding were time-consuming operations. "When will it be ready, Mommy?!"

Remember that whir as the tape wound around and around? And then the startling "snap!" that meant it was ready to play? The labored hum that could still be heard beneath the strains of music? As Avery listened to her animal songs, I thought about my first tape. It was Amy Grant's Age to Age. My sister and I rocked out to "I Have Decided" (and fast-forwarded "Got to Let it Go"). I think my next purchase must have been Keith Green. A family friend had convinced me of his awesomeness, so I plunked down my babysitting money for So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt. I loved it. (And worked hard to memorize it, too.)

Eventually I added more Amy Grant (as long as it didn't get too rocky for my mom), Simon and Garfunkel, Michael W. Smith, D.C. Talk (my mom had relented by this point), and even the classical music that my uncle got me hooked on -- especially the ballet pieces: Tchaikovsky, Delibes, Gounod. (Years later, a handsome young suitor would take me to see Coppelia, not knowing that I had grown up listening to and loving that very ballet. We ended up using one of the songs in our wedding.)

The tape stopped, snapping me back to the present. As I helped Avery turn the cassette over, I wondered what she would be dragging out thirty years from now to entertain her little ones with. And what will those little ones in the future be accustomed to? I'm sure I have no idea.
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