Saturday, August 20

Party Planner

As a young woman, it was my oldest sister who decorated for every birthday. I was the one who planned get-togethers. My mom was the one who made the food. In the family I am raising, I have filled all three of those rolls for so long, I forget how much easier it is to do fun things with family and friends when I'm not doing it on my own.

My oldest daughter wanted to have an end-of-summer party with her gal pals. I gave my consent, and she took off from there. She motivated an entire day's worth of housework, because she wanted to host it at her own home. She made cookies from scratch. She called up her friends, and then called them to remind them.

In the end, only a few of her friends made it. They had a lovely time, all the same. They played games, and played outside, and just sat around talking and visiting. The girls even stayed for dinner, and then I dropped them off back home. 

As it turns out, for one of the girls, it was the first time at a friend's house doing "normal" kid stuff since March. She has been in the hospital and at physical therapy and all kinds of craziness no eleven-year-old should have to do. She was just glad to be back in the groove of ordinary for one evening. My daughter was very attentive to her, and made sure everything they did was something this girl could participate in.

I am grateful for a fellow party planner. I am actually excited about having someone else in my family who likes to throw a good shindig, and who will help out, or even do it all herself! I haven't been doing much partying lately, or getting-together, or shindigging...just trying to keep up with the humdrum stuff, not much energy for anything else. I suspect this will change. I am grateful for people who like us enough they want to come over and hang out. We are blessed to have so many friends. And I am grateful for a daughter who is thoughtful and caring, who invests so much in making other girls her age feel good about themselves.

What are you blessed with today?

Friday, August 19

Power Down

Huge storms have been moving through our area yesterday and today, violent, destructive storms. The first one was the worst: hail, several inches of rain, winds above 80 miles per hour...lots of damage. We only lost one storm window and a side rear view mirror on our van. No trees or limbs down in the yard, no damage to our property, other than lots and lots of leaves stripped off bushes and trees. And our power was out for almost 28 hours.

So, this whole day, my children have cleaned and read and just sat around, talking amiably to each other. Crazy. They even wanted to clean, because (they said) "there's nothing else to do!" Almost the entire house was spiffed up. And they were nice to each other. All day. Well, until dinner time, then we had all had about as much as we could take. Then, after eating, I loaded them all up in the van drove them around town so they could see how the storm affected our area.

It is bad. It has been a perfect year for crops, and it was going to be an amazing harvest. All of the corn fields and soybean fields have been beaten into the ground. Almost everyone has broken windows. Many, many houses with vinyl siding look like they were sprayed with machine gun fire all along the north side. Signs down, flags shredded, buildings under construction flattened.

Even though I was really grateful for the electricity to come back on, I was also grateful for the "power down" unplug and focus on other stuff. I am grateful no one died in the storms. I am grateful to live in a community that helps out. Three different people stopped by my home to check on us today, because our phones were down. I am grateful my water heater and my stove are gas, because I could still wash and cook. I am grateful that the only thing that went bad in the fridge was a gallon of milk. I am grateful for mild weather all day today (particularly in August!), so that opening the windows and existing without our a/c and fans was not torture. I am grateful for my brick house. I am grateful for my children, who come up with stuff to do when "there's nothing else to do!", and that it's constructive stuff like cleaning and reading and telling jokes to each other. I am grateful for perspective, and safety, and the obvious protecting hand of God in our lives. My heart aches for all the farm families and their crop fields. We pray for the people affected by these storms every day. I know He will help us all pull through.

What are you blessed with today?

Thursday, August 18

Track Record

On our date last night, my husband and I sat down and wrote out one hundred date ideas, for future reference. The idea, of course, is that we won't ever waste our precious date night time doing this. It was kind of a half-baked idea when I blurted it out, based on another idea I had come across some months back.

I figured we would plunk away at it, coming up with a few ideas here and there, and come back to it over the next couple of weeks as the inspiration struck. But we sat there and rattled of idea after idea, brainstorming together and building on each other's comments...we shot out 100 date ideas in less than an hour.

It was kind of shocking how easily it happened. I suppose I thought that, since we so often can't think of anything to do, we would really have to struggle to make a list.

The truth is, we are a good team. We have a lot of practice building from each other, and talking things through, and it made a difference. Plus, we have been going out together for a long time.

I am grateful for a great track record. I am grateful for a husband who makes date night (or date morning, or date lunch hour) a priority, and makes it happen every week. I am grateful for all the resources we have to inspire us when it comes to doing things we both enjoy, that is cheap or free, that gives us quality time with each other. Seriously, 100 viable date ideas in 60 minutes? Awesome.

I should probably add that I am really, really grateful that I have children old enough to babysit for us now. Three of them, even. The track record for the first ten years was not as good as the track record for the last five. I think there is a correlation here.

What are you blessed with today?

Wednesday, August 17

A Decade and a Half

Today is my 15th wedding anniversary. I have been married to my best friend and one-man-fan-club for a decade and a half. Our life together is very good. He is my rock.

It's also a Wednesday smack in the middle of a crazy-busy workweek, so taking the day off to wander around, holding hands and gazing romantically into each other's eyes will have to be abbreviated and/or postponed.

That's fine with me. A nice lunch date and a late night stroll will suffice. Because my husband doesn't wait for our anniversary to make me feel treasured and adored. He pampers me every day he can. So I know we are going to do something amazing for us to mark this milestone when things quiet down. It might not be prompt, and it might not be spectacular by someone else's standards, but it will be meaningful and personalized, so it will just perfect.

I am grateful for the last decade and a half, and for the chance to stand by each other through college degrees and postpartum blues, bounced checks and extended family. I am grateful for the good times where we laugh together, and the tough times that have taught us to support each other and work things through. I am grateful for a husband who treats me like his queen, and talks to me like an equal, and delights to fill my wants and meet my needs. I am grateful for our seven children, and all they bring into our lives. And I am glad to know that, when the kids are all gone, my honey pie and I will still love hanging out, holding hands and gazing romantically into each other's eyes.

What are you blessed with today?

Tuesday, August 16

Open Thank You Note: Jerry & Roxanne and the Comfy Couch

Dear Jerry & Roxanne,

You are the only people I know who would go out to celebrate their own birthday, and then buy a gift for someone else. Do you remember when you went to that auction, and saw that couch and bought it? Not because you needed it, but because you thought of us. I was curious when you called to say you were on your way over with a "big surprise". I was completely bowled over with gratitude and, yes, surprise when you got here and it was a piece of furniture.

That couch was in use within five minutes of arriving, and was in perpetual use from that moment on. It was so comfy, and perfect for the space we had. An almost endless parade of children, cousins, neighbor kids, friends from many people have sat on that couch and enjoyed it. One young man sat down, and then promptly stood back up, saying "Oh man! This couch is so comfortable, I want to do that again!" And then he sat back down.

Sat on, slept on, jumped on, dined on, read on, hidden behind, cushions used for make-believe structures...that couch has been an indispensable fixture in our home.

How did you know? How did you know we needed a couch, and what size to get? You didn't, of course. You're just very good at being the Lord's hands, in this case, His furniture delivery service. It wasn't stylish or current, but it was certainly needful, and completely unexpected, and therefore it was perfect.

We - just this week - had to get rid of it. It was a victim of it's own perfection: so loved, so comfy, it was loved into furniture oblivion. I'm sad to see it go. I wish the skin horse's "nursery magic" would have worked on the couch the same way it worked on the Velveteen Rabbit, because it was loved just as much.

Thank you for furnishing my home with your generosity and thoughtfulness, and for blessing my life with your friendship.

Monday, August 15

Familiar Face

I had an appointment this afternoon that I really didn't want to keep. Or, rather, my husband had an appointment that he couldn't keep, so I got to go in his place.

Doing things in his place makes me nervous, as his areas of expertise often line up precisely with my biggest weaknesses. But weaknesses aside, this appointment had to be kept, so I went along, hoping to be effective and useful, dreading every minute of it.

It didn't help matters that I arrived a few minutes late. I checked in with the receptionist, and she picked up the phone and informed someone that their one o'clock appointment was here. Then she told me to have a seat, they would be right out. I was too nervous to sit, so I just stood there - a tad awkwardly - with my nervous self.

A few moments later, around the corner walked a friend. I just about sagged with relief. I know this person! We like each other. We are friends, and we have history and shared interests, and suddenly this appointment was less like an homage in bureaucratic paperwork  and more like a chatty visit with a person I enjoy.

I am grateful for a familiar face in an unfamiliar place, particular one I like and admire. I am grateful that when push comes to shove, I can still do forms and paperwork and regulation compliance. It was so nice to feel at ease, so I could ask questions and talk through things out loud, to be sure I wasn't messing things up. It was also nice to sprinkle the process with questions about family, and hobbies, and the whole "how I've spent my summer" discussion. I was in that office for over an hour. It's possible I could have died of apprehension and anxiety. But I didn't. I had a pleasant visit and got an important appointment taken care of. And I am grateful it's over.

What are you blessed with today?

Sunday, August 14

Dump Cake

There are a few recipes and meals that say "love" to me, comfort food that never fails to comfort. I am not surprised that most of them come from my childhood. My mom is a good cook, and there are many tasty things that were made over and over again.

Some of these good eats I have carried over into my own household, and they are loved by a new generation of family. But some have fallen out of use for one reason or another. One of these is dump cake.

I love dump cake. Just thinking about it takes me back to Sunday afternoons and dinner appointments with the missionaries and Church potlucks. I love dump cake. But I never make it. My husband is opposed to cherries and pineapple, and dump cake (the way my mom makes it) is not possible without cherries and pineapples.

Tonight, we stopped by my sister's house on our way home. She had stuff for me, I had stuff for her, it was a convenient place to potty the potty-trainer. We swapped stuff, and visited the "necessary room". And as I was getting ready to walk back out the door, she offered me some dump cake. I said, "Yes, please!"

I haven't had dump cake in years. She gave me the whole pan.

Rather, she gave me what was left in the pan (about half). She had been craving it, and so she made it, and they had eaten all they cared to eat. The pan was still warm from the oven. I carried it out the van, and when we arrived home, I put it in the (very clean!) fridge to be enjoyed tomorrow.

It's true, I was tempted to eat the whole thing right there, by myself. But that's gluttony, and I'm trying to cancel my subscription to gluttony. Besides, it occurs to me that if I blindfold my children, and give them a taste, they will be overcome by the yumminess, and then I can make dump cake for my own family, because they will actually like it. Cherries and pineapples and all.

I'm going to get the recipe (yes, sadly, I never bothered to get a copy, because I thought there was no point) and post it in the comments, if you're interested. Unless you have cherry/pineapple issues.

I am grateful for dump cake, and for a tradition of good food and happy memories. I am grateful for a mom who always fixed something tasty to eat, even when times were hard and resources were slim. I am grateful my sister had a hankering for dump cake, and that I showed up just as she realized her eyes were bigger than her stomach. And I really think dump cake could be construed as a breakfast food, don't you?

What are you blessed with today?