Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mud Bugs

We love our books,
but when a beautiful morning
beckons through
my babes' bedroom window,
we just have to take
a mudbug break.

Lots of fun
when you will yourself
to put out of your mind
the muddy bathtub
and clothes
and carpet
and walls
that will soon follow.

Hope your day is as
and beautiful
as this one was.

May God bless you in your play.

"Mom, Stop Laughing!"

I needed to make a quick trip to the library and asked Pippi if she wanted to come along. "I really do, but, Mommy I need to work on my story and I'm at a really good part." So we packed up paper, markers, pencils, and crayons and took off.

We browsed the stacks for awhile. She was delighted to find her favorite orange cat, Chester, back on the shelves after his long disappearing act. Can I just say, I HATE the library during the summer. Too many people, too few books. Ransacked shelves, all our favorites no where to be found. But I digress. I picked up our copy of Adele and Simon (thanks so much Silvia!), and we headed upstairs

We found a table, bathed in afternoon light, overlooking the duck pond. I explained quietly that we were in the adult section and must be quiet as church mice. She smiled and squeaked, "like a mouse," she whispered. She sat with her stack of books, flipping through Mailing May and Dodsworth in London. Then she pulled out her story-in-progress - something about Pippi, Tommy, and Annika playing tag with their shadows - and fell into her work, the only sounds her quiet whispers and the occasional squeak of her marker.

I've taken a break from A Severe Mercy, needing to put some distance between myself and Van, Jean, and Lewis. So I opened Great Expectations and before long, I found myself chuckling, not so very softly, through a particularly witty passage.

"Mom," Pippi whispered. "Mom, your supposed to be quiet in the adult library. Stop laughing," she said, frowning, stealing furtive looks at our neighbors through the curtain of her hair.

Let's just say, we had to leave. People were staring. But in my defense, it was awfully funny, my little girl behaving as an adult, and myself with no more self control than a child.

Then, this evening, we're having dinner. Tommy stuffs his fist into the peanut butter jar and my mom hides her face in her armpit, body shaking in silent laughter.

Guess what I said?


Cunningham was born on a sleepy day about a month before our Tommy slipped into the world. Pippi and I spent most of our time in our quilted nest, contractions being my constant companion, forcing me to slow down. We read great stacks of books. Watched too many movies. Spent our days in a complacent fog. But then, Cunningham, our dear little bantam, split the quiet afternoon in two. Before, there was that awful silence. Like a blanket pulled down over the head, a dullness brought on by too much sleep, too little movement. But for the next month, when the rooster's crow ushered in the twelve o'clock hour, the very atmosphere seemed to crackle with expectancy.

My Dad

This afternoon was rough. My husband has been working like a madman earning extra cash for birthdays and Christmas and we've been missing him terribly. We decided to stay home from church tonight to be together as a family and this news sent an already weepy Pippi into a tailspin. You know those moments, days, weeks when nothing you do or suggest is right? When everyone is hard to please and you wish you could just stick your nose in a book and tune it all out? That's where we've been this afternoon. And I so wanted this evening to be peaceful and cozy. In all fairness Pippi hasn't been the only weepy one around here this afternoon.

The more I tried to reason with her, "Pippi if you would just close your eyes for a few minutes you'd feel so much better," the more resistant she became. Until the two of us were feeding off of one another, fueling this angry beast that was growing black and ugly between us.

In stepped my dad. Sat on the couch. Listened for a while.

"Pippi come here for a minute," he said.

She walked over to him, grudgingly, almost certain she was about to receive a lecture about obedience and respect. He patted the cushion. She sat.

"Let's walk in the meadow for awhile," he said. Everything - her mood, her posture, her face - changed. The angst just seemed to melt away. The meadow, as my mom writes about here, is a world of their making, their Narnia where they push past the fur coats and tumble into a frosty forest teeming with the most fantastic creatures.

Twenty minutes later, Pippi put on her shoes and she and my dad went out to buy a bucket of fried chicken for supper. Now, Pippi and Tommy are playing with my husband's new phone taking pictures and chatting about batteries. Gone are the tears, the angst, the body rigid with tension. Hers and mine.

I've been thinking a lot about my dad here lately. He has cancer, has had a part of his body removed and is undergoing radiation and hormone therapy. Living with my parents, it is impossible to compartmentalize our lives, knowing of his battles but unable - or unwilling - to live through them with him. At two am, I hear him pacing the floor, watching TV because he can't sleep. I watch him leave the house each day ten minutes to eleven for his radiation appointment. I see the bills for the oncologist and the radiation department and the surgeon and this and that - all meaning cancer - littering the desk. And I am constantly reminded of his mortality.

And I am thankful. Thankful for the meadow. And fried chicken. Gardens. Tree swings. The Bible. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. His slanted all caps script. Tie draped over the back of the chair. Socks and shoes under the desk. False teeth in the Campbell's Soup dish. Baseball. Tabasco sauce. The great big cooking pot. Roller coasters. Butterfly kisses. Blow dryers. And long blond hair. And a cat named Dallas. Small churches. Tinsel. Colored Christmas tree lights. Star Trek. Marty and Doc. George and Mary and Zuzu's petals.

And a thousand more things that evoke my father's presence. It is a strange thing to be haunted by a person's absence when that person is still present. Objects and movies and images become loaded with memories. And watching moments play out, knowing that years later when the person is gone, this moment will live on. I don't think of myself as being morbid, thinking always of death, but as someone who is savoring the now, letting the moment sear itself into my mind with all the colors, smells, and flavors of life.

So, do me a favor. Hug your dad. Your mom. Your kids. Take a walk. Push through the wardrobe. Watch. Listen. Taste. Savor.

Because, in a twinkling, this may all be


and all that remains

is memory.


I've learned that for any roadblock my Pippi puts up, if I'm diligent enough, watchful enough, I can blaze a detour, setting out the orange traffic cones as I go. Sometimes the detour is not a simple curve around, but a tunnel underneath or a meandering scenic route. But I must never just blast through the roadblock like a petulant commuter late for a meeting. That roadblock is there for a reason.

A collapsed bridge.

A downed tree.

A herd of cows.

Fear of failure: What if I can't do it right the first time.

Or fear leaving childhood, even babyhood, behind: If I can read, will you still read to me?

Or maybe plain old play is so much more fun than work.

But when a roadblock is thrown up, a detour is sometimes provided. Not always. Sometimes you just have to sit tight, wait for the cows to mozy on along. Waiting is hard for me. This is why I make such a bad unschooler. I try very hard to be respectful of my childrens' inner clocks and such, but sometimes I get so impatient, looking for the detour, blazing my own if need be.

Brings me to my point. Remember this? Oh, I was so excited. Brought those beauties home, took pictures of them, smelled them, offered them to Pippi who promptly did the same. (You must understand, we seldom purchase new books and that new book smell is oh so crisp and warm, so the smelling thing is not all that weird.)

We couldn't wait for Tommy to go down for his nap.

For three days, Pippi pounced as soon as Tommy was in his bed, Goodnight Guitar drifting to us from the nursery radio. "Can we do lessons?" she'd ask, primer in hand. I was so sure this was it - that final leap into mostly daily lessons.

Then day four. Tommy was asleep. Pippi was drawing. "Would you like to do lessons?" I asked. "In a minute," she answered. Thirty minutes later I asked again. "Ok," she said. Not quite the response I was hoping for but I took it. Our lessons were significantly shorter and they lacked the luster of previous days.

Day five. "Maybe tomorrow," she said.

Day six. Roadblock was in place.

Day seven. Today. I found my way around it. I coaxed her, with every bit of parental whining and cajoling I could muster, into sitting for a short lesson from her primer. Then we built Deep Valley, from the Betsy-Tacy books, with blocks, play silks, and a myriad of wooden figures. Most of the action in her version of Deep Valley took place in the local school. After a while Pippi asked if we could play school. We've done this before, but this time she twisted the game a bit. She wanted to play the teacher.

Let's just say I played this game for all it was worth. And a more illiterate pupil than me you will never meet. Poor Teacher Pippi had to help me with all but the easiest of words. We stumbled through the first part of a Henry and Mudge reader. Anytime we would come across a phonetic rule unknown to Pippi, a "memory" would suddenly come to me, the student.

"Oh, teacher! I remember this one," I would say. "You told me last week - that day I wore my pink skirt with purple swirls and my yellow shoes and blue tights, oh and that was the day I threw up because I ate too much red jello - that was the day you told me that kn says n. The k is silent. I know that one. I know that one!"

"That's right," Pippi would say, primly and teacherly. "Kn says n. That word is knew."

She may always associate kn with red throw up, but she'll probably never forget it says n.

So many things happened in that impromptu lesson. She learned at least three new rules. She began to recognize many difficult sight words such as would and said, reading them with ease. Lower case b and d finally propped up her words like a sleeper on a bed. She gained confidence. She knew that this was play and that my reading skills surpassed hers, but for awhile we were able to suspend reality and reverse roles, allowing her feel her way around the words, sounding them out as a teacher would with a hesitant student.

Pippi may never respond to traditional lessons stripped of fun and games, at least not in childhood. And that's ok. You meet a child where she is. Sometimes that means waiting. But sometimes it means taking your forehead off of the horn, getting out of the car and leaving the beaten path.

Our Newest Family Member

Marie: Pronounced in the French fasion, a la Aristocats. At first, Pippi picked Moses from the James Herriot
story of the same name, but when Moses turned out to be a girl, she quickly became Marie.
And if you bungle the pronunciation, Pippi will correct you.

We adopted Marie from a local animal clinic. She and her litermates lost their mother not long
after birth and have been fed in this fashion since before their eyes were open.
We are trying to ween her off of the kitty formula, but she loves it. And I gotta say the
sound she makes when she's sucking the stuff down is so stinkin' cute.

Marie's favorite napping spot - Tommy's crib.

Happy Birthday Pippi!

Pippi turned five today at exactly 5:36 am. And since she woke very early today, quite excited, I had the pleasure of telling her happy birthday on the minute she turned five. To celebrate her birthday, I've culled facebook for all the sweet and funny things she has said and done in the past year. Enjoy!

September 18, 2009

I don't know who's enjoying Pippi's birthday more, Pippi or Chris and I. We made pancakes together, and I loved watching my babies get sticky with syrup. Now Pippi and Chris are on a date. We are so blessed.

September 24, 2009

Pippi must be going through some strange Andy Warholl thing with her art. In the past few days, she's gone through half a ream of notebook paper, markering three dots on each page. That's all. Three dots, different colors and sizes. If I suggest she put something more on each page (ever the frugal momma, don't waste anything) she looks at me as if I've suggested she use her artwork to wipe Tommy's butt.

October 4, 2009

My little scientist, Pippi, just discovered that "water and dried snot makes wet snot!"

October 6, 2009

Oh, how I love homeschooling. While I sat snuggling Tommy, Pippi just read a book to me. That one sweet, thrilling moment validates all the monetary sacrifices we have, and will, make.

October 11, 2009

Pippi has discovered my old stash of art supplies and is having a ball decorating all of our moving boxes with her artwork.

November 11, 2009

We're setting up Pippi's writing table. Such a pretty spot, bathed with sunlight filtered through the giant oak out back. I can't believe how much my little girl has grown. She loves to write - notes, letters, stories. Letters and numbers (in crayon) trail up the wall beside the stairs, which she blamed on Tommy.... So we can add lying to her long list of acquired skills. Sure do love that girl.

November 21, 2009

Pippi is reading We're Going On A Bear Hunt to Tommy, and the suspense is killing him. He's hiding his face in the pillows, and raising his head every now and then to say "Oh, no," with his hands on his cheeks.

December 4, 2009

I think my favorite thing about today's snow was walking with Pippi through our quiet white world. And she said, "God is so good to give us snow today."

December 8, 2009

Chris is teaching Pippi how to shoot craps (we are calling it shooting dice). That counts as a math lesson, right?

December 14, 2009

I'm making my shopping list and Pippi wants me to pick up some bear meat so that we can make bear meat chili with rosemary. Hope she'll settle for lamb. Don't think I've ever seen bear meat at HEB.

January 2, 2010

I had Elvis on my playlist earlier and PIppi said, "Mommy, I don't want to listen to Elvis right now. I want to listen to Billie Holliday."

January 8, 2010

Pippi's writing and spelling skills have reached a new level. She is now writing sentences on her own and likes to write out answers to questions and leave little notes all over the house. She brought me a note today. This is what it said, letter for letter: " I ned tu go too hte bathroom."

January 8, 2010

Pippi is the coolest little girl. She has spent the last hour writing and illustrating her first book. She won't let me peek until she's finished. Then I get to be the editor and publisher. (She's fascinated with what a book goes through to become a book.) So some of you may be getting a copy soon!

January 14, 2010

Pippi's crazy about the Cloudy/Meatballs movie. She is Flint, Tommy is Steve and apparently I'm the food making machine. She wrote out her breakfast order this morning and handed it to me: bdrd toste egs too apl joos

January 16, 2010

Pippi and Tommy are play cooking and I hear her say, "Oh no. I dropped the pelican leg in the fried gopher. And here's some lettuce to soak up the yummy gopher broth."

January 28, 2010

Listening to my dad tell Pippi a story about Elijah. So precious. Loving this moment.

Febuary 2, 2010

I have been searching for a bible for Pippi since she outgrew her toddler bible a year ago. None have interested her. Then last night, I was reading my bible and she asked me to read it aloud. So I did. She listened to me read 2 chapters from Luke. And asked lots of questions. And took it all in. I thank God for giving her a heart willing to recieve his love and a mind hungry for the completeness of his Word.

Febuary 28, 2010

Pippi was bemoaning the fact that the garden was barren of "tasty snacks." So I tought her how to spot dandelion weed and chickweed (both edible.) She declared dandelion leaves too bitter, but she grazed bare a patch of chickweed.

Febuary 28, 2010

Pippi asked me, "What's wrong with the flowers in the vase." "They wilted," I answered. "What's wilted mean?" "Died," I said. The next day she asked, "When I wilt, will I go to heaven?"

March 12, 2010

Pippi loves using her magnifying glass to hunt for bugs, ghosts, and animal tracks. Now she's using it to look down the back of Tommy's diaper. "He's poopy," she hollers.

April 4, 2010

We were outside, a book was lying open on the table and the wind was flipping through the pages. Pippi said, "Look Mom, the wind is reading the book!" I love how she looks at everything.

April 8, 2010

Pippi loves to watch my mom knitting, touching the yarn to her face and fingering the stitches. So she put together her own basket. Yes those are pom poms. And the needle is a wire thingy from an easter toy. She sits, poking a pom pom over and over with the wire, then brings it to me and says, "Look Mommy, I knitted some socks for you."

April 23, 2010

I'm reading Zathura to Pippi and one of the characters is about to step out his house into outerspace and Pip says, "Uh oh, Mommy. He better take an umbrella with him so that he doesn't get smashed by a meteor!"

April 28, 2010

Asked Pippi if she would like to begin learning piano. I explained that she will learn to read sheet music, and one day be able to write her own music, just as she writes her stories. Her response? "When can I make a CD?"

May 1, 2010

"Pippi, what's wrong?" "My eyes are brimming with tears because I really want a chocolate," says she.

May 11, 2010

Pippi is getting Tommy dressed. She said, "I've got to put on your trousers, Tommy. Be still. Tommy, trousers is another word for pants. Did you know that?"

May 14, 2010

Pippi has nicknamed herself "Monkeysee" and Tommy "Monkeydo." Wonder where that came from?

May 16, 2010

Pippi said on the way home from church, "Mommy, I really had fun in my class, but I missed Tommy so much." I love that they are each other's best friend.

May 28, 2010

Pippi has a new obsession. We printed blank music manuscript paper, and Pippi is composing her own songs, then bringing them to me and asking me to play them. She offers freely her opinions of my interpretations, saying, "Oh Mommy, that sounds good," or "That doesn't sound quite right. I think you've got the sheet upside down." Such a perfectionist.

June 5, 2010

Tommy is clunking around the living room in Pippi's shiny black dress shoes, and Pippi said, "Only unique boys wear girls' shoes."

June 11, 2010

Pippi was fooling around on the piano, making up something in the lower octaves. Sounded pretty spooky and dark. But good. Really good. "I call that one, Scooby Runs From Something Really Scary Then Eats a Sandwich," she said.

June 22, 2010

"I wish you just wear blue jeans, because I don't want to sit on your prickly legs." Courtesy of my 4yr old daughter.

June 29, 2010

We are watching the Looney Tunes episode called Baton Bunny, in which Bugs conducts "Morning, Noon, and Night" by Franz von Suppe. Bugs is up to his usual anticts - wandering shirt cuffs, waggling tux tails, conducting with his toes - and Pippi shouted, "Mommy I think Leonard Bernstein watched this cartoon."

July 11, 2010

Pippi is conducting an orchestra, chairs lined up with instruments on each chair. And Tommy is going from chair to chair dumping instruments on the floor. Pippi keeps waving her baton at him, shouting, "Out of the audience, mister!"

July 12, 2010

Tommy was chasing tigers and we told him, "Tommy, you're so brave!" Pippi's response? "I'm not brave. I'm only somewhat courageous."

July 13, 2010

Pippi is preparing for her fifth bday, still two months away. She's making her own party hats and invitations. But homemade paper plates (copy paper) and paper bowls (coffee filters)? Come on, Pippi my thrifty little soul . . . we'll splurg a little. Real storebought paper goods are not too extravagant.

July 16, 2010

Pippi has informed me that she wants a blog too, because, in her words, "I'm a very good writer."

July 23, 2010

Pippi: "Mommy, Pink minus red is white!"

August 16, 2010

Yesterday, I was talking to my mom,trying to spell over Tommy's head within earshot of Pippi. "Mom, after I put Tommy down for his nap, I'll let Pippi watch a m-o-v-i-e," I said. A moment later, Pippi said, "Mom, you spelled movie wrong. It should be m-o-o-v-i-e."
August 18, 2010

Pippi took a stack of books and a flashlight to bed with her last night. When I checked on her five minutes later, she was cradling the flashlight fast asleep. This mornig about 7:30 I found her on her bed looking through the books with the flashlight, despite the fact that her room was bathed in sunlight. "I just needed a little nap first," she said.

August 25, 2010

Pippi: Mommy, are you pregnant?

Me: No.

Pippi: Then why is your belly getting so big?

September 13, 2010

Pippi is becoming quite the cook. She loves digging her hands into the meatball mixture, squishing it all together, and rolling the meatballs. She's got her hands into it, pushing hair out of her face with her forearm, and Marie, her kitten is standing beside her mewing her head off. Pippi says, "I'm sorry Marie. Mommy's got to cook now. You go play and I'll hold you later."

September 18, 2010

Pippi turned five this morning. Last night before she went to sleep she said, "I have to sleep holding my feet so that I can feel myself grow into a five year old."