Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In the summertime...

In the summertime, when all the trees and leaves are green

And the redbird sings, I’ll be blue

’cause you don’t want my love ...

Okay. So this classic Roger Miller ditty doesn't necessarily speak to the anticpation of a lazy and carefree summer...but I can't get it out of my head today. Andy Williams also sang this, but I prefer the folksy Roger Miller version. I do believe that my mom and The Studly Muffin know every lyric to every song Roger Miller ever cranked out. That particular bit of information is free. Won't cost you a thing. So the next time you see Troy (perhaps at Smillies picking up his favorite brand of buttermilk) ask him to belt out his favorite Roger Miller tune.
It's official. Pools across the Ozarks are open for business. So it must be Summer. Yesterday (Memorial Day) I was doing some shopping at Dillons. As I moved past the big boxes of watermelons and the stacks of marked down strawberries I thought about how surreal this past week as been. Here I was, gathering supplies for sloppy joes and corn on the cob, while an about an hour away there were so many people who had lost so much. I've stood in the middle of the devastation in Joplin. It is like something from one of those apocalyptic movies I hate so much. But far worse because it's real. And while our Memorial Day celebration was small and modest, we have so much.
What I have learned throughout my own struggles and sufferings is that you can do what you can do. We must love our neighbor as ourselves and trust that God has a plan. Sometimes that involves action on our part. Saturday morning on westbound I-44 was a sight to see. It was bumper-to-bumper traffic. Church groups, restaurants, businesses and (my favorite) pick-up after pick-up of good 'ole boys with wheelbarrows and chainsaws...all heading to Joplin. We travel that particular bit of highway every Saturday morning. I have never seen the like. There was a certain anticipation on the highway that morning. It was like the calvary was coming. Not all of us can pick up our shovel and head to Joplin. Not all of us can donate to the charitable organization of our choice. I know plenty of people who are helping organize supplies and gathering donated items to send. What I can tell you is that if you can't help today or tomorrow don't despair. This is going to be a long recovery. We need to remember that the need is great and will continue to be great for quite some time.
So I am one of those unreasonably craaazzy homeschool moms who school throughout the year. It works for us. I seem to function better in the summertime than I do in the winter and early spring. In full disclosure, however, I must tell you that this was the first year that I came into the summer 'break' thinking..."I really wish we could take the next 3 months off!" But, just so you know that I am not subjecting my 9-year-old to hours of scholastic endeavors each day we do have somewhat of a lighter schedule in the summer. I am not completely evil. Not Completely.
I love literature. I love words. And while Josiah doesn't like reading to himself he loves books and loves stories. We do a lot of reading. We are currently doing a unit on the poem and song "America the Beautiful." I found the most beautiful book and felt like I needed to share.
It is illustrated by Wendell Minor (who is one of my favorite illustrators). Each page was a unique stand alone art piece. And he captured the words so well in his artwork...originally penned by Katherine Lee Bates.
Isn't it gorgeous? Josiah and I were so inspired we had to share our favorite pictures with Troy. You can find the book at Amazon here. I love Amazon.
I also found the most adorable dessert idea. I believe in making things a little extra special when you can. And circumstances and my natural inclinations urge me to those special things as 'frugally' as possible. I'm not sure where I got my 'more is more' tendencies...but I have been known to take things a little over the top. Unfortunately, poverty does not lend itself to 'over the top' very often. That is why I love this idea.
These are Rootbeer Float Cupcakes in shot glasses (not that I am in possession of that many shot glasses), but I have some other kinds of dishware that will substitute. You can find the instructions to this cute dessert at Gourmet Mom on the Go. What a cute way to start the summer off!
There are plenty of things I am looking forward to doing this summer. A vacation won't be one them. Sigh. I am trying not to think too hard about it. So I am going to try and making the little moments special for my guys. Sometimes it doesn't take much. Today after our library trip we went to the park. Josiah loves to swing. Forget the monkey bars & slides. The boy is a swinging maniac.

 He had the best expression on his face.

You can tell he's having the pretty good time. And this kind of fun is free! You can't beat it!

 This is cute. Just his legs. He asked me if he was swinging on a vine in this picture. What a boy!
Such swinging requires refreshment. Good moms take bottles of healthy water and fruit to the park. I took Tacos from Taco Bell and root beer. Next time I'll take fruit. Maybe.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Lights. Camera. Action!

My Josiah is an artist. His medium isn't paint or chalk or clay. Instead he spends his time creating stories with his ready & able army of action figures, etc. etc. Nothing in my house is safe...a necklace might be turned into a rope, bits of toilet paper (clean, of course) become billowing smoke, and a hanger becomes a hanging bridge. We indulge him, mostly.As long as he doesn't use food for special effects (it's happened) we're good. Just a little note: Josiah is no longer allowed to use mustard without adult supervision.

Here is the scene of the day.

He's also decided to go into business for himself. After pricing some of his favorite Indiana Jones toys online, he's decided that there is money to be made in the action figure/archaeologist market and is going to reproduce his creations. He offered to sell this one to me for 1000 bucks this afternoon and wondered if he might get a million out of it if he posted it online. Any takers? We'll throw in the hanger :<)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

At the Farm: Big Black Dogs & More

I thought I would post some happy pictures. After so much destruction this week it is comforting to know that there are still places that are peaceful and lovely....and we are not talking about the handbag department at Macy's...though if I had the money right now I could do some pretty impressive stress shopping. Nothing says comfort like a new Fossil purse. And so none of you leave my little blog with the impression that I am this marvel of a photographer, let me give credit where credit is do. These pictures were taken by my Mom at their farm in Stella a few weeks ago. Everything has bloomed up since then.  But the landscape was still absolutely beautiful.

I love this picture. This is Papa and Josiah on a nature walk. It was also during this nature walk that Josiah was attacked by the Great Thorn and maimed for life. He talked about it for daaayys. He's an only child. We take adventure where we can find it.

There isn't a Saturday that goes by that somebody doesn't pick up a fishing pole (conveniently stationed by the back door) and heads to the pond. It's a great pond. There is always something biting. The tall guy in the plaid shirt is my nephew, Christopher. He and his twin, Kalynn are turning 14 next month.. I am too young to be an aunt to teenagers. I just turned 16 myself :<)

Papa is showing off again!

 Now would be a good time to introduce Solomon. He is a Rottweiler. He is Big. He is Black. He also thinks he's a lap dog. Solomon has decided that everyone is really fishing for him.

This is a great picture. Notice the reflection on the pond. Gorgeous.

Solomon is hoping that the next fish is his. Who needs a Fish Finder when you have a BBD (Big Black Dog)?

Come on! Give a Big Black Dog a break! 

Here are some more great reflection pictures. The pond looks like a mirror!

My Dad found Solomon when he was just a puppy in the church parking lot. He brought him home. We were living with them at the time (it was just after my second episode of congestive heart failure). Solomon grew and grew noticeably every week. When he was little he would sit on my lap and lay his head and paws on my shoulder. He still tries. He doesn't know he's a Big Dog now.  Josiah and the cousins ride him like a pony.

The real boss on the farm is Nim...She is a ferocious mouser and highly intelligent (according to Papa). 

Every farm needs a tractor. Notice the fancy dancy pipe cover. I think it's a Big Laundry Detergent Bucket. There are dozens of Big Laundry Detergent Buckets all over the farm. We here in Southwest Missouri are resourceful. You can find Big Laundry Detergent Buckets in use in a variety of ways on the farm. It has been privy, dishwasher, chair and coffee table. 

 How can you not love this Big Black Dog? 

All he wants is just a fish! (I think he actually grabbed one off the pole and swallowed it whole a few days after this picture was taken)

So tonight, as we prepare for another round of nasty weather, I am thinking about lazy, sunny afternoons. There is always a jug of sweet tea nearby and I can always find a good book to sweep me away. Sigh.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Random Thoughts: Joplin

Today I wanted to write something poignant and timely. The tragedy in Joplin hits close to home. But I can't seem to put those poignant and timely thoughts together. I have so much going through my head..and I felt like I needed to write something down. So I did it in my usual random way.

1. It’s hard to put into words what I’m feeling this morning. And really to be honest this isn’t even my story. Joplin isn’t “my town.” We live about 60 miles east. But it is a town I am well acquainted with. I have been visiting since I was a baby. I have tons of family there. It has always been the 'big city' to my Dad's side of the family. Many of them migrated up from their farms and little houses located in Anderson, MO.  My great-grandma Leona LeMasters lived in a little white house in Joplin.  The house was simple and old-fashioned. It had one of those big floor radiators between the kitchen and the living room. It would occasionally grumble and growl. I would peer down into the grate and imagine that thousands of tiny people were being kept prisoners by the evil floor monster. In Grandma Leona’s living room stood a bookshelf filled with books of all shapes and sizes. Those books always comforted me in some ways. I practically inhale books…Even as a little girl I would rather read than do most anything. Grandma LeMasters was an avid reader and writer and she would sit in her corner chair and bestow nuggets of wisdom with her distinct wavering voice (I have a cousin who can do a pretty great Grandma LeMasters impression). It’s not ironic that the one thing I have left from Grandma Leona is a book. I thought about that little house yesterday.

2. For a few months now Troy and I have been assisting my parents at their church in Diamond. Diamond is a little town just miles away from Joplin. My parents live a little farther out than that on a farm outside of Stella. Every Saturday morning we load up the car, take the Kansas Expressway exit out of Springfield on I-44 and head to Diamond. The church is undergoing some remodeling so Troy, my dad and a few others gather every Saturday and work. I spend the day wandering around with my mom. We usually find our way to the Dollar Tree and occasionally hit Hobby Lobby in Joplin.  Saturday was windy, but gorgeous. Almost a perfect temperature for a May Day. My guys fished in the pond that afternoon and then Josiah helped Papa plant pumpkins and sunflowers in the garden after supper. The evening was spectacular. I sat reading an old book by Gene Stratton-Porter and was treated to the frogs and birds singing in an evening concert.

3. If you live in this part of the country for very long you can tell those days that might hold severe weather. The air gets thick and soupy. Not the oppressive heat of a hot, summer day. But on stormy days the atmosphere almost seems electric. Sunday was that kind of day. The morning found us at church. We went back to the farm for the afternoon. We did laundry, watched tv, napped…occasionally the weather guy would pop in on the TV and talk about a nasty looking cell that was heading into the area. You have to understand that in this part of the country we are not unaccustomed to severe weather. While certainly unwelcome, severe weather can be common. What is not common, however, are giant tornadoes touching down in such a populated area. Dad had already gone back to church for our Sunday evening service and Mom had gotten off work and went right to the church. She works at a nursing home just off Rangeline Rd. in Joplin. Troy, Josiah and I loaded up the car and headed to the church. Mom called me  and I could hear the tornado sirens in the background. “Where are you?” she said. “Where is the tornado? The sirens are going off.” By the time we got to the church we knew that a tornado had touched down in Joplin and was heading east. We made the decision to go try and beat the storm back to Springfield (which is east!). I can tell you that it was an intense hour. Almost immediately we found a radio station broadcasting nonstop storm coverage and the report was heartbreaking. At some point a caller had called in with his eyewitness account of the destruction. He called out familiar businesses and locations. All gone or heavily damaged. He described cars overturned, people wandering aimlessly, power lines down. He remained remarkably calm. However, eventually the reality of it all must have hit him. He became frantic. Worried about his family. He lived near St. John’s. We found out later that the hospital and surrounding community looked like a war zone. At one point I can remember thinking. “This must be a prank caller. There is no way this can be happening.” Occasionally, the radio announcer would break in and talk about another exit on I-44 that had been closed. Cars flipped, semi’s twisted. Troy and I would look at each other. We had passed that exit minutes before. The storm was right behind us.

Eventually, we made enough time that we put enough distance between us and the storm and we drove back to a relatively calm Springfield. The storm sagged south and we in Springfield were treated to a beautiful double rainbow.  As I write this, the deathtoll has risen to 116. I know it could have been much, much worse. But how heartbreaking.

4. My aunt and uncle have a house on Texas Street in Joplin. It was there we took Josiah for his first overnight visit to see family when he was just a few weeks old. And in fact, I believe we are going for Sunday dinner in just a few weeks. My aunt is the glue that holds the extended family together. I have enjoyed many Sunday dinners at her house. She and my uncle rode the storm out in their little basement. It is so little I wasn’t even aware it existed. I am sure that today she and my uncle are assisting those who have been affected by this tragedy. They have been ‘assisting’ others for so many years…I don’t imagine today to be any different.

5. This afternoon I went grocery shopping and turned the station to the same one we had listened to while outrunning the storm. Caller after caller were offering their services. A muffler repair shop owner called in and told folks to bring in their cars…they would air up tires and even sharpen up chainsaws. A pet groomer called and told everybody to bring their pets to her to keep safe. A grandpa from Kentucky called worried about his granddaughter. He hadn’t heard from her. “Call Grandpa as soon as you can,” he said. You know, our part of the country has somewhat of a reputation. We are all right-wing bigots. We wear our pajamas to Wal-mart (you know who you are… I’ve seen you) and marry our cousins. We are unsophisticated, uneducated hicks. Some of us might be all of those things. Some of us might be a few of those things. But I dare you to find a part of the country where you will find such warm and generous people. Hey, my pajama pants are your pajama pants. And I am not going to say I have never seen certain plumbing fixtures in a yard or two...but in a pinch...you call on us. We will help you down to our last bean in the pot.

5. My mom went to work this morning. To be honest, I would have rather her stay home. At the little farm in Stella, with her Rottweiler, in the little rock farmhouse with my Dad’s shotgun. But those little old people in the nursing home need her. They need familiar faces and routine. We all need each other. Last night I received calls, FB posts and emails from family and friends…they had heard of the storm and wanted to be sure we were all okay. Saturday the media was talking about “The End of the World.” We never know when our world is going to change in a blink of an eye. We must never take for granted for what God has blessed us with. My aches and pains don't seem to matter today.

If you are able and want to do something, but don't know what...I would suggest donating to Convoy of Hope. They are a terrific relief organization based out of Springfield. They do excellent work and help people all over the world. They have a team in Joplin right now. You won't have to worry about where your money is going. They are good folks. You can get to their website from Here.

Much love,

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Slug Bug

Unmotivated. Thy name is Beke. A slug can't get any sluggier than me. Blame it on the heat! Blame it on our unconventional schedule and life!  I would blame it on the alcohol, but I don't drink! If I did, now would be a good time for something strong. I started off the week on a roll. I should have listened to my gut and stayed in bed. Instead I ventured out into the world. And let me tell ya...It wasn't a great experience. I cried. It wasn't attractive. At all.

 Today started on a high note. I went into my morning with a plan. Then promptly talked myself out of the plan. I have been plan less all day. I'm sure at some point this week I will suddenly wake up and say "what happened to my week..and why in the world didn't I get anything done?"

Anyhoo. Tomorrow is another day. And hopefully it will involve spelling and toilet cleaning (not necessarily in that order). I did make some iced tea and put ham in the crockpot. At least my family will receive nourishment.

And because I feel sorry for myself and am desperate need of comfort food, I thought of Girl Scout Cookies. Which led me to take this Girl Scout Cookie Personality Test. Who knew that Girl Scout Cookies could reveal so much about the innermost me? My fav's are Thin Mints (followed by the Peanut Butter kind). Here are the Thin Mint observations,

Thin Mints: You’re easygoing. Those who favor bold flavors like mint are easygoing types. You’re the one at home who doesn’t feel the need to make waves, and the one your co-workers find the most agreeable.

Nailed-it! Now if they would have added that Thin Mint lovers appreciate sushi, adore flip flops, can sing every number in The Sound of Music and has a sophomoric habit of daydreaming I would have suspected somebody over that at Personality Test central was related to me!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

For A Mother

I have all sorts of wonderful things I could say about Mother’s Day. Being a mom is pretty great.  And I have the blessing of having an absolutely fabulous Mom. And a pretty terrific Mother-in-law. Mother’s Day used to be a bittersweet holiday for me. For me, becoming a mom turned out to be quite a challenge. My body didn’t work the way it was supposed to. And so…after a long 10 years (which included a miscarriage and a failed adoption attempt)...eventually Mother’s Day turned out to be one of my favorite holidays. Not because it is the day when the world celebrates my incredible mothering skills and my “all around awesomeness”. There is one other mom in my life….without her I wouldn’t be the mother I am today. You see, about 9 ½ years ago she made a difficult choice. She gave her sweet brown-eyed baby boy to me…to call my own. I haven’t seen her since that day. She has grown up. Every year I send her pictures and a letter full of all of Josiah’s accomplishments and stories. I don’t know if we will ever meet again. One day Josiah might want to meet her. But every day I ask God to bless her and I thank Him for sending her into our lives. It wasn’t an easy decision for her. And though I know she doesn’t regret her decision there has been heartache for her through the years. So on this Mother’s Day I not only honor the women in my life who have been “Mother” to me…I honor the young woman who made a selfless choice so that I might be called “Mommy.”
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