Monday, November 30, 2009

Special Moments By the Sea

Let's see, can I get one more post about Hilton Head out here? Will you indulge me one more?

Or maybe I could just continue to post indefinitely about the wonders of salt air, sea and sand? Mmmmmm!

Here's just a little sampling of some special times over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Bare Feet In Ice Water: I don't know how those kids
stood it, but they ran in it, danced in it, jumped in it,
and never stopped giggling!

The Wonderful Haze of Spanish Moss:
It's everywhere,
and it makes for a wonderland . . . riding bikes along the paths,
the sun dappling in among the branches of the oaks and
glowing through the hanging moss.

Baby in a Basket: My bike basket as it looked
headed for the beach with Youngest Daughter's necessities.

Sunset, Sand and Shells at Twilight: Oldest Daughter
took this, laying down in the sand and gazing across sand,
shells and grasses into the setting sun. Mmmm!

My Girl: I love this girl. I loved watching her ride along
the edge of the surf, water spraying from the tires, wind
blowing the curling ends of her hair. I loved the way she
got us back to the condo . . . when I got us lost. I love her
beautiful common sense and her brilliant sense of direction.
This girl is my rock . . . my fun-loving, strength-giving,
stabilizing rock.

Red Rocker Overlooking Harbortown: This was such
a wonderful place to sit and take in all the sights and
sounds of the bustle of people and the gentle lapping of the
boats in the water.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights." James 1:17

Saturday, November 28, 2009

We're Staying Where??

Wednesday a.m. found us ambling down the road toward Hilton Head. All of us konked out right on cue, leaving the Man of the House to navigate us along the highway with only a few vanilla Cokes and a box of Cheez-It's to keep him company.

When we pulled up to our Sea Pines' condo at 5 p.m., we were met with a most interesting sight! A building permit slapped right by our door, braces holding up new siding, piles of lumber and some kind of earth-moving equipment. Hmmmmm. Oh well!

The Man of the House immediately pulled out his cell phone and dialed the rental company. While he voiced complaints on the phone, I gave my opinion in the background.

"There's a building permit right by the door!"

"There doesn't seem to be any work going on."

"There's a pile of lumber in the walkway!"

"I think we can step over it."

"There are braces across the entry!"

"Can we just stoop under?"

The Man of the House looked at me over his cell phone and with his eyes, politely (I think!), asked me to please . . . be . . . quiet!

We headed over to the rental agency. The poor frustrated clerk! It was the night before Thanksgiving; his office was to close in 1/2 hour; Hilton Head was packed out; and before him stood a homeless family of seven!

He thumbed wearily through his availabilities.

"Okay, I know you had a 3-bedroom condo, but how about a 4-bedroom, 3-story, right on Harbor Town Links and across the walkway from the harbor itself?"

"And, yes," he answered my lifted eyebrows, "for the same price."

And that is exactly where we landed . . . delightedly!

These are the times you're glad you're married to a strong-willed man . . . a force to be reckoned with. A force that lands you in a spacious condo . . . 3 stories above beautiful Harbor Town.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Being Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone is enjoying some part of their day. Holidays can be rough and sometimes it's just the few moments when you first waken in the morning that makes your day special . . . or a turkey that actually cooked all the way through this year . . . or 2 minutes to yourself in quiet reflection at the end of the day.

I always feel a lot of pressure on these holidays to make the whole day big and grand and phenomenal and to have all the big and grand and phenomenal emotions to go along with it. And most often that's just not realistic.

And a few quiet moments tucking my hand securely into God's, talking to Him, and breathing, "Thank you," are more meaningful than the whole "shebang" of the day!

So, what am I doing today, you ask?

Well, a little of this:

and a little of this:

and a little of this:

And a whole lot of this:

and, yes, today I'm being thankful . . . very thankful!

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His mercies endure forever!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Thanksgiving Surprise

Okay . . . here's an "association" quiz.

What do sand and stuffing, crashing waves and cranberry sauce, and lighthouses and lots of turkey have in common?

This year . . . for our family . . . the common denominator is Thanksgiving!!

Do you remember I was trying to cheerfully accept no beach vacation this year . . . no golden sunsets with dolphins leaping in the bay . . . no gazing forever and ever across the ocean and into the horizon . . . no pedalling straight into the briny, salty wind across the sand. ::sob::

So, what a delightful surprise it was when the Man of the House began looking at our schedules and realized that all college classes, sports teams, and work schedules caught their collective breath over the Thanksgiving holidays and we actually had several days in a row to string together for some family time.

Did I want to go to the beach? Did I want to go? Did I want to go?

My hands were already packing while my mouth was forming the word "yes"!

So we'll be having a delightfully unconventional Thanksgiving this year. I won't be cooking a big meal. I won't be desperately cleaning the house at 3 in the morning so that everyone who arrives for the big dinner will think we live in that degree of spotlessness on a daily basis. I won't be picking turkey off endless bones and ziplocking it into freezer bags.

I'll be listening to the roar of waves and watching sunsets and pedalling furiously into the wind.

And I can't wait!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Now, This Is Funny

Last week I found my "introduction" to slow cooker heaven . . . the book to end all Thursday night dinner woes. I was so excited to try and share, that I decided to blog about each recipe I tried.

So . . . I bought the book and immediately began to pore over it. It looked/looks fabulous. I began to get a breath of hope that there were slow cooker recipes out there that were edible.

After reading for awhile and salivating and sighing and oooh-ing and aaah-ing, I decided to check out this wonderful cook's credentials? Who was this woman? What was her background?

Imagine my surprise to find out that this woman is a blogger! She made herself a challenge several years ago . . . to cook at least one slow cooker dish every day for a year, 365 days . . . and blog about it!

What a hoot!! So, no, I will not be cooking from this book and reviewing recipes on this blog because every recipe in this wonderful book has already been blogged about by the very author of the book.

Oh, the irony!

Check out her blog; it's fun (! And the book is even better!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A GRAND Time for GRANDkids

When it comes to giving grandkids a grand time camping, not all grandparents could do as grand a job as these two (sorry . . . I couldn't help myself!!). Actually, not all grandparents would even choose to put up with their grandkids on a camping trip.

But these two have the secret formula.

Choose a gorgeous location. (Mountains of NC are preferred!)

Allow the kids to sleep out of doors and get the full camp experience.

But keep enough comforts of home to save your sanity and your back!

Let the kids do things they don't get to do at home . . . like making fires . . . beautiful, glowing campfires . . . ::sigh::!

Play endless age-appropriate card games . . . everything from Clean Hands/Dirty Feet to Zoomania.

Encourage jumping off high rock formations into deep, cool swimming holes.

Throw in enough dish washing, water hauling, tent folding, and wood gathering that you don't forget you're part of the team.

(Oh, this picture does do me good! Nothing like a strapping 15 year-old boy drying dishes to get the heart palpitating!)

Show the kids that even grandparents can have fun!

(This poor grandfather nearly froze his rear end off, floating down the river!)

Allow lots of independent bike-riding time. (This is another good sanity-saver for grandparents!)

And then fix the bikes when they get back.

Add in a generous amount of the best cousins in the world. And then stir in some blue skies, warm sunshine, and a strong dose of the scent of pine.

This formula results in wonderful memories, appreciation for the out of doors, and a love for camping every time.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!!

Friday, November 13, 2009


My Thursdays just became wild . . . unpredictable . . . crazy. Right at dinner time I now have one child leaving the house for his JV basketball practice with the Man of the House , another child leaving the house for his 5th grade basketball practice with me, 3 children staying home and needing dinner, 4 of us returning home at different times and needing dinner. It's a recipe for family meal disaster.

I could have pizza every Thursday night . . . and slowly whittle away all my monthly grocery budget. I could turn all people loose on the kitchen to scavenge what they could find . . . and end up with my 6 year-old eating cappuccino fudge ice cream, Cheetos, and gummy bears.

Or . . . I could start using my (deep breath) slow cooker.

Let me be the first to say I hate slow cooker dinners! Maybe it's just me, but it seems to me that by the time I actually serve a slow cooker meal, all of the individual ingredients have simmered together into one unrecognizable lump! (The only notable exception I have found is Shredded Italian Pot Roast, which is divine. Okay, so I have one meal.)

But here I am . . . needing . . . really needing a slow cooker to handle dinner for me. Wonderful concept . . . dump all ingredients in, and family feeds themselves out of it as needed, all the while the delicious meal stays simmeringly hot, fragrant, and savory.

::sigh:: If only!

So, yes, I'm biting the proverbial bullet and on Thursdays I will be pulling out the slow cooker. I'm not going it alone, thankfully. I'm taking along this book that all the reviewers on Amazon say is amazing, life-changing, and will work miracles. I'm counting on that . . . miracles, that is. On Fridays I will review the previous day's attempts at the aforesaid hot, fragrant, savory meals.

If you gotta do something you don't wanna do, at least approach it with an air of adventure! And I'm definitely always up for an adventure!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How The Mighty Have Fallen

When it comes to Halloween, I've always considered myself a woman of principle. And my principles have had to do with Halloween costumes.

Principle #1 - Never, ever buy a costume. Always have homemade or home "gathered" costumes. And, for goodness sake, if you had to stoop so low as to buy one, never, ever buy one of those hideously cheaply-made excuses for costumes at Wal-Mart and the like.

I used to want to weep at the poor little children crowded by my door on Halloween in unbelievably chintzy polyester and acrylic costumes. Where were the mothers?

Principle #2 - No scary costumes. No problem for the girls, who always had a full range of safe options: cowgirls, ballerinas, cheerleaders, princesses. More problematic for the boys, but we could always stick with wholesome action figures, Indians, animals, careers, etc.

And I did feel proud to have steered clear of all manner of fear and evil. (Did I say "proud"?)

(Exhibit A)

Just to show you what a woman of principles I was, I would like for you to observed Exhibit A above. A picture from a Halloween 10 years ago.

Oldest Daughter dressed as an angel, Butterick pattern #4419, thank you very much. Oldest and Middle Sons dressed like the "worker men" they longed to be. All home made, home gathered, non-scary. (And could I say just adorably cute. Ooooh, I could just eat up those little faces!)

Yes, a woman of principle. Do I hear someone saying "a woman of pride"? Oh, no, my dear, not pride . . . principle, principle.

Please, now, fast forward 10 years. And I would like for you to feast your eyes upon Youngest Daughter and Youngest Son, ready to go out trick-or-treating several weeks ago.

Yes, how the mighty have fallen.

The morning of Halloween, I decided I really must do something about the costume dilemma. So . . . we headed off to Wal-Mart . . . to the half-price costume wall. And we picked up the most chintzy, cheap, poorly made costumes you ever saw. Not only that, Youngest Daughter's was even a licensed costume. I was hyperventilating.

Yes, that's Youngest Son in the outfit looking decidedly in the "scary" category. Some executioner or ring wraith or other dark lord of mystery. ::sigh::

And you know what I found out. That maybe my high and lofty principles aren't really principles after all . . . really just preferences.

This is what I found out about my preferences this year:

* I prefer this year not to spend the time making Halloween costumes that I could be cooking dinner . . . or keeping us in clean clothes . . . or (for goodness sake) sleeping!

* I prefer this year not to make a major life moment over the fact that my 10 year-old does not want to be Peter Pan or Frodo or any other character from a work of literature.

* I prefer this year to keep the main things the main things and let non-essentials be exactly that . . . non-essentials.

So, this year we made Jack-o-lanterns, and the Man of the House took the little cheesy Thumbelina and the slightly macabre robed and hooded figure out onto the streets. After a soggy half hour in the rain, they came back, divided their spoils among the other siblings, and Halloween was over. I was not stressed and uptight; they were laid back and nonchalant. The household was at peace.

Maybe next year I'll go back to my strong preferences. Maybe Youngest Daughter will be a full scale black and red lady bug and Youngest Son will be the best dadgum Tom Sawyer you ever did see. But for this year, it was time to find out what is essential . . . and what really just isn't.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Playing Babies

Do you have a special way that you connect with each of your children?

Yes, it changes over the years with each.

But right now, Oldest Daughter and I love to watch the occasional reality show . . . Project Runway, John and Kate (before it became emotionally traumatic), Say Yes to the Dress. We sit smooshed together, one arm wrapped around the other's one arm, giving insightful commentary, stunning analysis, and witty criticisms along the way. They're our dates. No other kids allowed.

Oldest Son likes to talk. And it usually happens when I pop in to say good night . . . when it's dark . . . and it's already 11:30 . . . and he needs to be asleep. Come to think of it, maybe it's just an evil ploy! Oldest Son talks and talks and we solve world crises and analyze the newest song he downloaded and laugh at random lines from Jim Gaffigan comedy.

For Middle Son, it's all about physical touch. Hugs and tickles and hugs that you think are going to be hugs and turn out to be tickles. And heads on shoulders and scratching of the back and rubbing of the feet. And, did I mention, hugs and tickles?

Youngest Son loves to play games. And so he coerces me into a quick game of King's Corner before bed. Or he corrals me into The Farm Game when he really should be practicing his handwriting. Or he destroys me in Memory (which really isn't fair because his mind has one thing going on in it and mine is playing Memory, thinking through what's for dinner, planning my to do list for the morning, and preparing for a phone call later).

And then there's Youngest Daughter. And her current way of connecting is "Playing Babies."


It's not that I don't like the idea of "playing babies." It seems a great way to connect with a six year-old. It's just that I've "played babies" for a long time. Seventeen years, to be exact. And sometimes I just don't want to "play babies."

But then, just as I'm finally tackling the mound of dishes teetering in the kitchen, a soft hand touches my leg and a quiet voice says, "Mama, will you play babies with me?" And what's a mom to do? Say "no" to this request that won't probably be posed in another 6 months? So, we "play babies."

The hard thing about "playing babies" with Youngest Daughter is that we must slow down . . . slow way, way down. We must sit on the floor, we must arrange all the babies, we must lay out all the clothes. And my mind, which could keep whirring while I watch reality shows and discuss life and give hugs and play games with the others, must slow down to a crawl and engage with the mind of a six year-old "mommy." Because we must discuss what the babies will eat, which ones need to go to the bathroom and which ones need diapers changed, what games they will play, and when they should nap. And Youngest Daughter knows . . . yes, she knows when my mind starts wandering and I'm mentally sending an e-mail to the Chairman of the Sports Activity Committee instead of cutting up the plastic corn and making sure the baby is eating as she is supposed to. And she corrects me . . . and keeps me focused on the task at hand . . . "playing babies."

And I'm reminded that no matter which child I'm interacting with, this time is fleeting. It's such a gift. And I need to be "all there" whether I'm tickling or passing "go," cheering designers or discussing basketball moves . . . or playing babies.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Autumn . . . As It Should Be

To My Dear Friend, Autumn ~ ~

You just haven't been yourself lately, so I'm so glad to see you've finally snapped out of your month-long funk in the last several days.

I've been waiting for you to come for 9 months, and then when you came, you were so grey, so drizzly, so depressing. Was this the Autumn I dreamed of and waited for and bragged about. I've always called you "my favorite," and I'm sorry to admit that for the last several weeks I've been just a little disappointed.

But now you're your old self again.

Autumn . . . the way it should be.

And you'll have to forgive my self-absorbed view of our relationship, but I really do love you so much better this way.

I love your clear, blue skies . . . without a single cloud. I love your snappy, crisp air that makes my lungs tingle when I take my first morning breath outside. And I love, love, love your colors.

Startling oranges:

Reds that set the crepe myrtles on fire:

Shimmering yellows:

Yes, I'd say our relationship is just about perfect now. Because when it comes to us, Autumn, I'm afraid it IS all about me.

Me loving all the splendor and variety and brevity of you.