Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My First-Born

Blondie is the first-born of two first-born's. Bless her heart.

She is a rare breed as first-born's seldom marry one another. They typically kill each other, or at least severely complicate and over-think things before they ever make it down the aisle.

Procreation between two first-born's should come with a warning label.

I should know. I parent one of these rare breeds.

She is painfully intense, sober-minded, strong-willed, incessantly inquisitive, passionate, inflexible...

Sometimes I fear her small, slight, blue-eyed, blonde-headed person will burst with all that is constantly churning within.

I could write a book on this child...

But a post will suffice for now.

She accepts nothing at face value. She doesn't believe something is true just because her Sunday School teacher or pastor or parent tells her so. She has to work it out for herself. 

And while she has a million questions of her own about God and the universe, she is not even a little bit shy to ask total strangers, nearly every one she meets, whether they believe in God. And I, as her meek and not-so-bold mother, smile sheepishly at the poor stranger while my face turns red.

Questions about God and good and evil and suffering and sin have plagued her since the age of 3. She frets and worries and broods, losing sleep over the the complexities of life and the world she lives in.

Honestly, she has more existential moments than any child imaginable.

Mommy, if God loves everyone then does He love Satan?

Mommy, where do they still speak that original language? You know how God confused everyone's language at the Tower of Babel? Well, where in the world is that original language still spoken?

Mommy, it doesn't seem fair that God and Jesus never sin.

Mommy, if God can do anything, He could have thought of another way to save the world.

Mommy, what if I'm forced to marry someone I don't truly love? (at age 3!)

And those are just the few I can quickly recall as I sit here writing.

Yesterday was one of those days.

She and Brownie and I were snuggled up in my bed reading The Patchwork Path, a wonderful book about a young slave girl and her father. The story is about their journey to Canada and the patchwork quilt whose patterns offer clues to freedom.

Blondie was moved by the story. And she must not have gotten the historical context at first. She said, Mommy, they could have just escaped to the United States. It's such a free and great country. Why did they go all the way to Canada? So I explained that this book takes place in the early to mid-1800's and reminded her that Hannah and her father were slaves in Georgia.

Well, she shot up out of bed with tears in her eyes and indignation written all over her face.

What?!? We used to have slavery here?!? How could any president have ever allowed slavery? I wish I'd been president then! I would have stopped it! How could Americans have ever thought this was okay? Why didn't someone do something? I don't understand. I CAN'T BELIEVE AMERICA WAS ONCE SUCH A SAVAGE NATION!!!

I began to calm her down. We talked about slavery and freedom and the world. She remembered her history sentence about the 14th Amendment and how it freed the slaves. And there we all sat, in my bed, discussing history and hard things together.

Clearly she thought about the subject the rest of the day. She offered the blessing at dinner last night...
Dear Lord, THANK YOU for the 14th Amendment. 
Thank you that we are not slaves. Thank you for freedom. Thank you that there's no slavery in our country anymore. Thank you for the warm, comfy bed I sleep in every night. Thank you for all the food I have. Thank you for my family. 
The gratitude for all things related to freedom and provision continued and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I think I just sighed...with the sobering realization that this ever-thinking child is mine to parent.

Every day I am scared and overwhelmed. Every day I feel ill-equipped. Her big thoughts are often too big for my brain. Days filled with big questions are exhausting.

The hardest part may be that I see so much of myself in her. The Believer and the skeptic. One whose own brooding and over-thinking can become debilitating and counter-productive and scary. 

But I remind myself that she was made this way. Wired to think and to question. Maybe she'll be a writer or a professor. A political leader or a theologian. Or maybe a mother to a little girl who will be born with much will and mental fortitude.

And if that's the case, she'll be well-prepared.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Painted Pots

Most of you readers are already skilled in the ways of spray paint. You can speak of its transforming power. You know of its magic to morph thrift store trash into shabby chic treasure.

I've spray-painted everything from free kitchen chairs...

To tacky urns...

To picture frames & shelves...

And now flower pots.

That was a faux-painted-brown garage sale find in a former life. Now a lovely cream.

That's right. I've found a way to incorporate toxic, earth-unfriendly spray paint with flowers, soil, and all things green. Please don't call the environmental police. 

I realized this Spring that I had only two pots in which to plant a few annuals. And when I started browsing my favorite discount stores for cheap pots, I stood aghast at the prices. Pots, even plastic ones, can be pricey.

So, I bought these white tacky ones from Big Lots for $3 each. And I corralled my other two big pots plus a few little terra cotta ones sitting around. I bought some blue spray paint for $1. I dug out some partial cans of black and off-white spray paint from the garage...

And went to work...



The hardest part was keeping Cupcake away from the fumes and drying pots. I was only partially successful.

Ever my faithful sidekick, he assisted by scattering soil about the front porch and gobbling up fistfuls of dirt.

And in case you're wondering where my blue paint inspiration came from...

The French, of course! This bold blue always reminds me of France. Sigh.

My plastic beauties are no match for these gorgeous Euro-vignettes but it's the best I can do. 


{This blue looks WAY bright and garish in the photos. Yikes! It's not so day-glo in real life.}

And I'm hoping that as my flowers and foliage grow more and more lush, my painted and clustered pots will look more and more Frenchy. 

One could certainly go a step further and make the pots more authentic-looking by "aging" them with some goldish-brown paint rubbed along the edges. But, done is better than perfect. And to borrow from the Nester, "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful."

If only I could invent a way to age vinyl siding...


I purchased these lovely flowers in the clearance corner of my local Wal-Mart's Garden Center. 87 cents for 6-packs of annuals! They just needed a little love and hydration. Voila! Pretty on a budget.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Late Bloomer

I love lush flowering gardens. But I do not have a good track record with growing things. I forget to water.

I also have perfectionistic tendencies. I'm a bit all-or-nothing-ish. I salivate over cottage gardens in Southern Living. I have nearly been run over while absentmindedly strolling through old neighborhoods. The ones with ginormous maple trees and perennials as old as I am. The ones with ivy climbing the aged brick walls.

As I've mentioned, I live in a little vinyl-sided neighborhood that's sort of in the country. Our yard was formerly a field. Actually, it still is.

And because I don't know how to grow maples overnight and cultivate cottage gardens, I do nothing. Or at least I did.

But times, they are a changin'.

No more excuses.

I have 3 kids. I homeschool.

I have laundry and dishes and cooking. No time for gardening.

I don't have a green thumb.

I don't have a landscaping budget.


I've been weeding. Turns out that I love it. Something about getting at the root of something and yanking it out that's gratifying.

I've planted dozens of free bulbs and tubers that a friend gave me for free.

I've dug a few little beds.

I've squealed with delight upon finding a fat juicy worm to show the kids.

The laundry can wait but as my gardening friend says, "The soil is dying to produce!"

Just today, I spent hours outside weeding and watering and planting. The older kids rode bikes around me and Cupcake helped out by eating excess potting soil.

My little plot of former field isn't exactly pretty yet. Southern Living has not come calling.

But better to bloom late than not at all.


Stay tuned for a post later this week on painted pots. Cheap, tacky plastic pots were no match for me and my spray paint.

This post is part of Emily's Tuesdays Unwrapped. Check it out.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I just returned from my annual trip to Hilton Head Island with The Man, our kids, and the rest of my family. Eighteen of us to be exact. My mom, dad, two brothers, one sister, their spouses and most adorable children. 

The Man and I first came here back in August of 1995 for our honeymoon. HHI set record hot temperatures that week. But we hardly noticed. We were young and in love and setting record hot temps ourselves. (Yes, I know this is a family blog.)

We fell in love with the South Carolina island and told my parents it would be a fun place to vacation as a family. Long story short: we've been coming here together for 12 years. Back then there were no children and I, as the eldest of four, was the only one married. 

Vacations here were glorious. The guys enjoyed golf while the girls enjoyed shopping. We read fashion magazines on the beach and sunned by the pool. We all played bocce for hours on end and went out to dinner at night. But this sort of indulgence and ridiculous leisure cannot last forever. 

Now, with eight children in all and six under the age of 3 1/2, we do not enjoy golf or shopping or leisure. But we do enjoy each other

And the week is still glorious...but louder than it used to be.

Here are a few of my favorite photos, taken with my new camera. (I hope you're reading this Camera Fairy.)


Our ever-growing #9 coming any day!

My brother assures me that he can photo-shop my hair in this picture. I am much obliged seeing that all our other family photos feature an angry Cupcake. Poor thing. He got sick right after vacation started. Very, very sick.

See how happy he is here...

And here.

And here.

Here's a few of our happier moments.

I have the best nieces and nephews. I snapped almost as many photos of them as I did of my own children.

Cannot. Even. Handle. This.

Seriously, I have not seen such deliciousness in all my life.

And this...

am going to have another girl just for the baby swimwear collections. Ruffles never looked so good. It's like polka-dotted icing atop the fattest, most scrumptious truffle I've ever seen.

One of my sweet nephews and his band-aid. And a poor starfish. This unsuspecting creature had no idea he was about to be plucked from his ocean home and land in the grip of an excitable 3-year-old.

Until next year...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Thrifty Inspiration

I haven't been thrifting much lately. Truth is, even thrift stores and yard sales aren't free. And the more shameful truth is that I can get a little carried away with my bargains and still waste money...which ends up not being thrifty.

But one of my favorite local haunts beckoned me last week. My favorite score, you ask? The mother lode of magazines. And at 10 cents a piece, I did what any woman would do. I bought forty.

You read it right. Forty. And though I am probably insane for hauling home 40 magazines, I rationalized that 40 at 10 cents is still less than one in the checkout line. This is how I justified a hernia-inducing load of magazines to The Man...who just smiled and shook his head.

They were all published within the last year too! Country Living, Martha, Coastal Living, Better Homes & Gardens, etc. As much as I love my favorite decorating blogs and seeing real people spruce up real homes and real furniture, I'm still a sucker for pretty magazines. There's nothing like a cup of coffee and page after glossy page of hydrangea-laden tablescapes and dreamy cottages.

And after I'm all inspired and ready for some new reads, I'll just recycle my 40 magazines by delivering them back to the same thrift store. Because I'm green like that.

So the next time you're tempted to spend $5 on that pretty magazine in the checkout line, don't! Get in the car, drive to your nearest thrift store, and get yourself a Southern Living. Or 40.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tuesdays Unwrapped: Brothers & Oatmeal

I love what Emily is doing on Tuesdays. Seeing as how her blog is all about "reflection and discovery in the midst of the mundane," Tuesdays Unwrapped fits right in.

I'm a glass-is-half-empty kind of girl. I wish I wasn't. I'm working on it. But too often my focus is on all that I wish was different. In any given moment, I'm brooding about all sorts of dissatisfactions and displeasures. 

Finding the miracle amid the mayhem is like swapping out the cloudy lens through which I view life. It changes everything and I finally see clearly.

I mourn the precious vignettes that I never noticed or documented. And I'm hoping that some Tuesdays here and there will be a step in the right direction.


My moment came yesterday morning. Five-year-old Brownie was the first one up. He is always bright and chatty and happy upon waking. And hungry.

As I groggily prepared his microwaveable oatmeal, I heard Cupcake...also hungry.

Balancing baby on hip and bowl in hand, I slid the oatmeal to Brownie. Cupcake nearly leapt out of my arms so I set him down, not knowing what I would feed this finicky and feisty toddler.

Cupcake sidled right up to big brother, who eagerly and cheerfully fed him from his own bowl of oatmeal. And after they shared that bowl together, I fixed them another...and another.

Three bowls of oatmeal and one giant helping of unprompted generosity later, I soaked it all in. And sighed. 

I'm thankful for a big brother who gives sacrificially to his little brother. I'm thankful for all the moments of togetherness and the tender familial bonds that living life with one another creates. 

For in the midst of squabbles and annoyance and craziness, there is tenderness and love. 

And I got to watch it all unfold over a bowl of oatmeal.


Now head on over to see what others have unwrapped today...


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