Category Archives: Family

A funny thing happened

We used to own goldfish. There were two of them, Swimmy and Splashy, and they lived in an old television that we stuffed with a fish tank and placed over our kitchen sink.

I know this because I wrote about them in a poem. I know about the poem because I found it today, while sorting through some of my portfolios from back when I was a creative writing major who wrote poems about things like goldfish.

But here’s the funny thing: neither Mitch nor I remember the goldfish. A dim, blinking light in the back of my memory confirms something about the television fish tank but little about the fish themselves (though presumably, they were gold). I don’t remember feeding them; I’m guessing that they died.

Maybe it’s my impending class reunion, or perhaps the second glass I’ve wine I’m working on now, but I’m a bit sad that we had so completely forgotten that detail about our first years of marriage. What else have we forgotten? I’m sure there are things that didn’t merit a poem that we don’t remember and so don’t miss. (Some of them did get a poem, but I’m still perplexed about the event that inspired it. For example, I found one titled “On the Way to Your Wedding,” but I have no idea whose wedding we were en route to.)

I’ll take a happy stance here, though, and suggest that so many good things have filled our memories over the course of the last eight years that there’s hardly space for remembering two simply named fish. We’ve lived in many small spaces with quirky neighbors and haphazard decor. We’ve made meals, hosted parties, taken up hobbies (and dropped them), lost objects, purchased new ones and seen friendships ebb and flow.

These years have been full, and they have been sweet. If I’m sorry to lose the memory of certain seasons, it’s a comfort to know that the ones I do remember are lovely, and the ones that I’ve forgotten aren’t gone. They may not be tucked away in an accordian file of old poetry, but someone does remember them, and He will remind me of them when they’re needed.

She makes this face a lot

And she’s eight months old! (Can you believe it?)

Sprinkles

She considers candied ginger a treat.

She pilfers her papa’s medium salsa, drinking milk from a sippy cup when it gets too hot.

When offered raw garlic, she asks for seconds.

She eats hummus with a spoon.

And when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday dinner, she chose oatmeal.

But, like any self-respecting toddler, this girl loves frosting and sprinkles. (I don’t know where she gets it.)

Today, she is three, and I can’t quite believe it. We’ve already taken her new bike for two spins and eaten breakfast at an enchanted cafe and played dress-up for a good portion of the morning, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy birthday, sweet Lu. I’m so glad that I get to be your mama.

The passage of time

For Lydia, the past tense is encompassed by one broad category: “last year.”

Sometimes, this is a legitimate distinction: for example, “I turned two last year!” Sometimes, it isn’t: she might say, “We went to breakfast last year,” when we all know that she means we went to breakfast this morning.

Certain things that must be learned I take for granted, because I feel now as though I have always known them, and it isn’t until my pint-sized shadow announces that “a bird flew by the window last year” that it hits me: Lydia doesn’t know the shape of the calendar.

She’s only beginning to understand – much to her disappointment – that she’ll never be a baby again, and that she will always be older than Sarah. When I tell her that her birthday is on May 11th, that’s a simple fact, unattached to the understanding that those words function like an address. They tell us where her birthday fits into the year.

As lovely as it must be to have little concept of time, I came up with this idea for teaching her about the flow of months and years and seasons.

The idea is simple: every morning, we put a button into the jar. At the end of the month, we empty it out, count the buttons and put next month’s name on the front of the jar. We begin again.

The construction is simple as well, and you can tune it to your family’s needs. I wrote the month names out in letters large enough for Lydia to read and, as an afterthought, numbered each month, but you could use different colored paper for each season if you want to (by the time I thought to do that, it was too late.)

Jar of Days

You will need:

  • blank mailing labels
  • card stock
  • one ribbon
  • hole punch
  • a pen
  • a Mason jar (I used a quart-sized jar)
  • 31 small objects. We’re using buttons for this month, but dried pasta or beans would work, too, as would large beads, rocks, or origami boxes (if you happened to go on a memorable origami binge a few years ago, and still find yourself with a surplus of boxes). You could also number some squares of cardstock and reuse those each month. Lastly, I know I don’t need to say this, but I will: don’t let your child play with these unsupervised if you use something small enough to be a choking hazard.

Now, this next part is really easy. Ready? Write “May” and/or the number 5 on a mailing label. Stick it to the card stock and trim card stock to your desired size.

Punch holes on either size of the mailing label and thread ribbon through the holes. Tie label to a jar and drop some stuff in it!

Repeat for remaining months, and stash those in an envelope for later.

[This post is a part of Works for Me Wednesday]

The Box Library

When we received a library kit, a large box and a collection of dilapidated picture books last week, inspiration struck. Remember our cardboard kitchen? I present to you our cardboard library:

The library kit included an old-school library stamp (which I seriously considered keeping for myself), along with some adhesive book cards. I taped those bad boys into the covers of our books, handed the stamp to my little head librarian, and opened the doors for business.

A few hours later, she’d learned words like “renew,” issued library cards to the baby and stained her fingers red with what turned out to be un-washable ink. From there, she turned her desk into a house, invited Sarah inside for lunch and shut me out.

Oh well. I had plenty of library books to peruse, so I was in no danger of feeling left out.

The assistant librarian covers for Lydia while she takes a nap break.

Here’s the How-To:

For Lydia’s desk, we took a big box, tucked in the top flaps and turned it on its side. She pulled up a chair from her little table, I topped it with a name plate (cut from a spare bit of cardboard) and voila! The little girl turned into a head librarian.

For her desktop organizer, I used an old dayplanner with pockets. Into those pockets we tucked her stamp pad, purple sparkly pen and library cards – one for each family member plus a few blank ones, should grandparents or friends happen to stop by.

The cards are just “Ex Libris” stickers (from the library kit, of course), backed with cardboard. If you don’t have an awesome library kit, you can decorate the cardboard itself, or use blank mailing labels in place of the name tags.

For the bookshelf/returns bin, I used an old milk crate (leftover from the early days of our marriage, when I worked at a gas station) topped with an office-style inbox. Simple enough, and the beauty of it is that everything but the big box will fit into the milk crate when we’re finished playing, so we can build the whole library again some day, should an opportunity (and box) present itself.

Lastly, the books themselves: the ones we were given are too well-loved to have much of a lifespan on our bookshelves (some of them went straight into my art stash, where they will eventually be “re-purposed”), but they’re perfect for stamping repeatedly with a library stamp.

You could hit up the free shelves at your (real) library, or stop by the free/discount boxes outside your favorite used bookstore. Don’t overlook your own shelves, though: I’d be lying if I said that a few of our books hadn’t been demoted to “box library” status – namely, the ones that I’ve never liked, and wouldn’t mind packing up into a milk crate for the majority of the year.

Restocking the shelves in an outfit that is decided NOT "Librarian Chic."

Another perk: all of the sudden, Lydia was presented with a dozen books that she had never seen before. That made for one content little librarian.

[This post is a part Works for Me Wednesday]

On shelves now

“Shelves” is an extremely general term in this case. If I were to be specific, I would say, “On my shelf now.” But I could be referring to your shelf as well, for reasons that will become clear in the next sentence or so.

Do you remember Little Red Riding Lu? Well, I put a picture book together for the girls through Blurb, and I thought I would give you the opportunity to order one as well. If you’re interested, comment below and I’ll get in touch with you, and give you further instructions.

Stitches

There are sounds that no mama wants to hear from the next room:

Giggles.

A loud thump.

Then, silence.

Fortunately, my dad, the ER nurse, was in the room with Lydia when she pitched off our bed and into the window sill head first, so by the time I began to get nervous about that silence, he stood in the doorway with Lydia in his arms.

The next few hours had their share of unpleasant moments – for example, the one where Lydia pulled her hand away from her face, revealing that it, her forehead and left cheek were covered in blood – but they weren’t without a handful of mercies.

Mitch, my dad and my step-mom were all here when she fell, which meant that there were plenty of arms to hold both girls, enough heads present for at least one of us to be thinking clearly at all times, and two nurses able to peek at Lydia’s cut, announce, “Stitches,” and hustle us out the door to the doctor’s office.

Another mercy? The doctor’s office was open late. We didn’t have to go to the ER, a fact for which I am tremendously grateful.

And when I prayed for Lydia in the waiting room, asking God to give her strength and a peaceful spirit, he heard me and answered tenfold: the sweet girl fell asleep on the exam table as the doctor placed the last two of her five stitches.

The next day, when I asked Lydia what she was thankful for, she answered with a blessing that I had overlooked: her sparkly Band-Aid.

I can see the sense in that. If you have to have to wear a Band-Aid on your face for a week, wouldn’t you want to wear a pretty one?