There is Always Laundry

It’s the first full day of summer. I’m sitting alone listening to the rain quietly patter the roof and the windows in the kitchen. Sipping hot coffee in the dim light. Poppy is snoring. David is in the shower and the kids are all still asleep.

We don’t have any plans today but Ella is sick so that kind of limits things. They will probably watch movies all day. But they did that yesterday. And the day before. Summertime colds are the worst…

My mind is pregnant with ideas…things I should do…things I need to do…things that would be fun to do…but I feel a very distinct lack of direction. And a very distinct sense that the sand is pouring through the hourglass at an alarmingly fast pace. Only two summers left until Kate leaves…and then William. And then Henry. Poor Ella will be suffocated with my love and affection when she hits high school (which is coincidentally just about the time she’ll start rolling her eyes at me with a fervor that only a teenager can master.)


The rain is coming in more steadily now. I think I’ll sit and listen to it for a while and fold a load of laundry. No matter what, there is always laundry, isn’t there?

Every day is a gift…make it count.

There is Always Laundry

The Last, Loveliest Smile

Mums NST

It looks like rain outside, but there is no rain in the forecast. I could really use a beautifully rainy day today.  It is going to rain on Sunday…it will be cool and rainy and I think the perfect day to let a pot of chili simmer on the stove and watch football together.

I have a couple of errands to run today, and then I think I’ll spend some time in the garden. My poor, poor garden. Yesterday I realized there were about 100 tiny little cherry tomatoes ready to pick that I didn’t even know had grown.  I even picked a few strawberries.  Next year I promise to do better…

On my list today —  Chrysanthemums.  I think it’s time. Kate is going to be happy…she is very happy that autumn has arrived.  I don’t know why.  I asked her.  She doesn’t know why.  I’m glad she’s happy.

Yesterday I was outside for a few hours working in the garden. There was a breeze that blew through the hickory and oak trees in our yard, scattering hundreds of acorns and nuts with each gentle gust. It sounded like hail. Poppy just loved that.  She flew around the yard picking up acorns and hickory nuts and flinging them around, then chasing after them and zipping to the other end of the yard all by herself. She stopped to bark at the deer behind the fence (who were not scared of her), or to watch the geese overhead, flying in their uneven V. Their flight call mingled with the rustling of leaves in the breeze. I stopped to watch them for a moment, before they disappeared behind the trees. The sun was warm on my face.

Acorns NSTOne year David had a brilliant idea to pay the kids to pick up the acorns.  $5 per bucket or something like that.  He was broke after about an hour.  Henry mentioned the bucket idea to me earlier in the week. I told him to go ask his father.

This year it took a long while for me to be ready for autumn.  I don’t know why.  I have always loved the season, I could list a thousand reasons why, but I guess this year my heart clung tightly to summer and it’s late dinners, it’s schedule-less delight, it’s sleepy-headed, lazy mornings. It’s hard to walk away from such a beautiful place as summer, with it’s sunshine and wildflowers and it’s beaches, seashells, ice cream and bare feet.

But as the days have cooled, the pumpkins and chrysanthemums have begun popping up on doorsteps around town…acorns are falling and leaves will be changing colors soon. Boots and sweaters and wool blankets have been pulled out, and I’ve even begun dreaming of cocoa and mulled wine by a warm fire in the evenings.

And my sentiment toward leaving summer behind is changing.  Autumn is, afterall, “the year’s last, loveliest smile…”

–John Howard Bryant, “Indian Summer”

Wool Blanket NST

The Last, Loveliest Smile

The Ending of Summer

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
–Henry James

Oh Henry, you slay me.  I do love summer, and we have but a month of it left.  I’m not quite sure where the time all went…but my heart is a bit heavy over the fact that summer’s end is near.

Kate will be in high school this fall.  Maybe that’s part of the sorrow in it, I don’t know. On the surface, the whole high school thing doesn’t bother me.  But just below the surface, where the beating of my heart is hidden from view but clearly palpable, I guess I know that my time with her here is fading.  I have four short years left, and one day soon I will turn around and realize it is all over.  All those little things about her will be gone — confined to her bedroom or taken away with her completely; I will look around and there will be nothing but her photographs to remind me.

No more bottles of nail polish scattered around.  No more dirty old bag full of horse hair and muddy riding boots in the kitchen.  No more viola in the hallway…and no music behind her bedroom door.  No more love notes, or doodles or sketches to surprise me. I won’t be able to hear her laugh or watch her silly new dance moves or see her smile.  I won’t be able to look over at her and see her sitting there, long legs unfolded gracefully before her as she reads. And we won’t talk at bedtime anymore, the way we do now.

Most nights, I imagine, I will go to sleep wondering if her day was a good one, or if some creep has broken her precious heart. I will wonder if she’s eating healthy and if she got her juice in the morning (and I will worry for her roommate if not…). And I will wonder if she is tucked in each night…is she safe and is she happy and is she really doing alright? I will just have to trust that she is, and that if not, she will tell me.

I’m not sure how to do that. I’m not sure how a mother trusts and lets her child go…

I do think this is where the sorrow comes from. The ending of another summer is really just an inching closer to the day my heart breaks a little…the day it goes walking off on its own.

Kate 14 NST

The Ending of Summer

This Summer Morning

Flowers NST

I have left my job.

I am sitting here in the quiet of this morning sipping a cup of coffee.  The steam rises in swirls around the mug and the soft light of day is beginning to shine through the trees, dappled and twinkling as their leaves flutter in the breeze.  The refrigerator hums.  Just outside the window on our deck a brood of Carolina Wrens is nestled in the hydrangea bush.  Four tiny beaks rest silently inside while the pair flies back and forth throughout the day.  The male calls out, and his song fills my ears…it is much prettier than the refrigerator’s hum.

In my mind a list grows…things that must be done today…this week…this summer, and a sleepy little redhead just tip-toed down the stairs to tell me of her dreams, so I shall go now.

There is much peace in my heart today…

This Summer Morning

For one week…

We spent last week in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

It was a vacation that we needed, more than in other years I think.  We needed to get out of the house, and away from everything.  We needed to forget about all of the stuff that has been going on.  And for the first time that I can remember since my childhood, I found it hard to come home.  There didn’t seem to be much to come home to, as everything I needed was with me, and everything at home just reminded me of, well, the stuff I was trying to get away from. 

So for one week, we forgot.  We woke up with no agenda, nothing to be done, nothing necessary. 

Our house sat literally 10 feet from the beach.  I would get up and quietly dress and take Poppy for a walk on the beach.  (Poppy, by the way, spent a good deal of time avoiding the water.  She was not interested — not in the least.)  So while we walked — I by the water searching for shells, and she up on the beach at a distance she considered to be safe from the waves — we enjoyed the quiet of the beach.  She barked at people passing by, and ran away (as far away as she could get) as the waves approached her, and she sniffed the crab holes. 

And then, when our walk was over, she sat with me on the screened in porch, overlooking the beach, and barked and howled everytime someone new came by.  I drank coffee.  I drank it until I didn’t want anymore.  I watched people walking by, pelicans diving, and I marvelled at the waves…the rhythmic waves…how they crash, over and over and over again, and how the sun dances upon the water.  And I wondered if someday, someday maybe years from now, if maybe The Man and I will have a beach house.  Maybe some day when we are in the twilight of our life, when the hard work is done, maybe we will be able to sit and drink coffee every morning to the sound of the waves and the sunshine on our faces.  One can dream, anyway.

And as I sat there dreaming, little faces would appear with sleep still washing over them.  Little faces, with pink cheeks and freckles and tangled up hair.  And they would sit down beside me in their jammies with their plates full of bacon and eggs that their daddy made.  I wished silently that our days at home could feel like this, and I promised to try.  I promised to try not to care so much about time, and schedules and cleanliness.  I promised that this summer would be more about fun.   

This week we ate outside on red-painted picnic tables covered in layers of salt, and decorated with piles of sandy shells…the treasure of little fingers.  I love their shells the most — more than the ones I have chosen.  Theirs are slivers and chunks and broken pieces of every color.  There are spirals, and stripes and mottled surfaces.  What I see when I look at them are the voices, the fingers, the sparkling eyes that found them.  And they remind me that it is the simple things that are the most beautiful.     

Every night, The Man and I would sit on the small deck and cook on the grill.  We would drink a glass of wine and watch the waves.  We had a charcoal grill, so there was plenty of time to talk and to be together, in quiet, while the coals heated up.  That was good (except for the one time that Kate came out and told us that Ella had doodled all over –and I mean ALL OVER — the white bureaus in black sharpie.  Just FYI — it takes a good 6-7 coats of paint to cover up black sharpie.) 

We exhausted ourselves with laughter and sunshine.  We built sand castles and dug giant holes.  We played in the waves.  We went to bed late with bellies full of steak, shrimp, watermelon, corn on the cob and s’mores.  We went out for ice cream.  We fed the seagulls, and watched the dolphins.  We caught crabs and watched them bury themselves in the sand. We rested with our faces to the sun, with the ocean breeze ruffling our hair, and the rushing sound of the sea and the laughter of children in our ears. 

Of course, there was the occasional whining about sandy pants and such, but it was the best vacation I can ever remember having.

For one week…

Summer’s End

Summer is winding down here.  Maybe it’s just in my mind, I don’t know, but the days are certainly shorter now than before, the nights are cooler and our yard is covered in walnut shells, broken and jagged, the work of squirrels.  The acorns are surely next, buckets and buckets of them.  Leaves are even scuttling across the sidewalk in the breeze, and just that simple sound reminds me that autumn is near, my favorite time of the year.   

Fall is where I have longed to be since I was a little girl.  It is settled-in.  While summer is sunshine, fireworks and s’mores, cherry-stained lips and fingers, sunscreen and freckles, fall is football games, warm blankets and hot cocoa.  It is pumpkins, cinnamon, woodsmoke and wool sweaters.  It is warmth on a chilly night.  It is family.  Fall is home.

This last few days of summer we will resume football practice and cheer practice and we will pick out first-day-of-school outfits and make sure our pencils are sharpened and all that good stuff.  And we’ll probably roast wieners over a fire and make s’mores one last time, maybe hit the pool, stay up late with a movie and popcorn, and let the kids run around outside with Poppy until the lightning bugs come out.  I will enjoy every minute of summer’s splendor.  And then I will dog-ear this page and set it aside.  Some cold winter night, when the wind whistles outside my window, maybe I’ll sit by the fire and open again to this page.  I think I will smile as I remember this summer, poison ivy, heartache and all.

Summer’s End

What I’ll do. Or what I will do if I’m not eating Milk Duds all day.

Well, since Ella was sick for over a week, we have spent an unfortunate amount of time inside. And we were kindof bored. And we ate a lot of candy and such. I think she is on the mend, but Henry’s wellness is questionable. And also The Man has been laying around moaning and groaning for two days with the misery. If we ever EVER E.Ver. get done with being sick, I have dreamed up a list of stuff to do this summer.

1. Catch fireflies.

2. Eat popsicles.

3. Make s’mores on the firepit!

4. Cook wieners on a stick over a fire.

5. Days at the pool!!!

6. Light fireworks.

7. Pick wildflowers.

8. Go to the lake.

9. Picnic at the winery.

10. Wine on the stoop with the love of my life.

11. Dry lavendar, thyme, rosemary and oregano. And maybe chives.

12. Ride a (teensy) roller coaster.

13. Take long walks.

14. Visit Blacksburg.

15. Walk on the beach.

16. Blow bubbles. And dandelions. (Even though that will be spreading seeds all over. I don’t care. I want to blow dandelions).

17. Raise butterflies.

18. Sip coffee on the deck while the sun rises.

19. Cookout with friends.

20. Eat on the patio.




What I’ll do. Or what I will do if I’m not eating Milk Duds all day.

Totally Busy and also Boring

Well, there is a lot of stuff going on around here, but it’s mostly boring.  It’s funny, people ask me what I’ve been up to, and there is just nothing to say.  Some of my honest responses include “laundry” and “picking up of the poo” and “cleaning.”  So fun.  Are you jealous out there?  You know you are.

I’m being sarcastic, of course.

(To some degree.) 

Summer has begun, and it has not started with much of a bang.  Ella has been sick.  So there has been no pool, and no sprinkler, and no scooter and no bike riding.  Boo!  The poor little girl is just not feeling well.  And the other natives are getting restless because to be honest, I am a boring mother.  There is only so much fun I can provide when I’ve got a mountain of laundry and a mess of a house and a sick little girl. 

The good news is that this will pass, and in the meantime, we are dreaming about summer and how much fun we’re going to have.  And also snuggling a bunch. 


Totally Busy and also Boring


So here it is, September first.  There is no nip in the air, however.  Unless 97 is considered nippy.  Which I’m quite certain it is not.  (I’ve noticed lately that I use the phrase “I’m quite certain” rather frequently.  I haven’t decided whether it is annoying or not…)

This morning on the front stoop a black cat sat, watching the four deer eat all  my plants.  I would like to know why she didn’t scare off the deer.  Yet there she sat…watching.

I stood there, looking out my window, staring at the deer, staring at me.  It is strangely paralyzing to stand ten feet from a doe, with her staring at you, all the while chewing with fervor the delicate buds of your flowers.  And yet I did.  Perhaps the cat had the same strangely paralyzing feeling I did…

The Man, however, was not paralyzed, not even slightly.  He threw open the door, at which the deer and the cat all flew off.  When I complained, he said he wanted the deer to know that it was not a friendly yard.  I said I am quite certain that they feel it is very friendly indeed, what with the spread of flowers and other delicacies of nature’s bounty we’ve laid out for them all summer long… 

It is hard to believe that autumn is right around the corner.  Last night The Man and I watched a little bit of college football.  Even the sound of ESPN’s college football theme music can throw me into an autumn frenzy.  Thoughts about Thanksgiving and menu-planning, wool sweaters, rosey-cheeked Christmas tree hunts, warm fires burning, leaves changing color and yes, college football, have been tip-toeing around up in my noggin for a few weeks now, even as I try to eek out the last of summer’s thrills.  I can’t help it.  I’m an Autumnmaniac. 

But for today, we will revel in summer’s blessings, seeing as how it’s 97.  So we’re going to pack up some lunch and head to the pool.  We’ll come home, hang our towels on the deck (which I know is probably a violation of  hoa rules and I don’t care), have some lemonade and watch the day wind down.  We’ve noticed it getting darker earlier.  I think it’s mother nature’s way of calming us down…telling us it’s time to settle in.

Enjoy your summery Wednesday, everyone!


What a summer day causes me to do.

Yesterday was a good day.  Not that it was perfect.  Because it was not.

Kate and I came home from our fancy hotel stay and went to Mass with the family.  This is something we are trying desperately to enjoy.  However, it is never quite as enjoyable as I think it is going to be.  Somehow, in a week’s time, I forget how miserable I was at Mass the Sunday before, and I delude myself into thinking that it is going to be so nice to go to Mass all together, with the boys in their khakis, and the girls in their dresses, and we are all going to be happy and holy together.   And then Sunday morning comes, and William complains about having to wear khakis.  And Ella complains about me brushing her hair.  And then we get to Mass.  And the complications begin nearly immediately, with someone complaining about where they have to sit, and someone touching someone else’s book, and someone whose legs are so, so sore that they just can’t possibly kneel.  And I tell them that if they don’t kneel, that another part of them is going to be so, so sore that they won’t be able to sit.  (I actually don’t say that, but I heartily think it.)

On this particular day, we didn’t even last until communion.  I walked swiftly out of there, with Ella behind me crying (as loudly as possible, I think) “No Mommy!  No Mommy!  Nooooooo!”  Like I was going to beat her or something.  Sheesh.

So we get outside.  I realize that I don’t have the car keys, and it’s too stinkin hot to sit in the car without it running, so we stand there.  There is a statue of the Virgin Mary to the side, and I decide to take Ella there and maybe the Virgin Mary will spread some grace over her (that is possible, right?).  People have left money there.  People have left flowers at her feet.  I look at her face, and kneel down to pray.  I showed Ella how to fold her hands, and together we prayed Hail Mary.  I prayed for patience, and grace.  I nearly wept about how lovely my life is, even when it seems so frustrating. 

We finally made it home, and The Man made lunch.  I ate peanuts.  Isn’t that a healthy lunch?  Then I put sunblock on all the kids and we headed to the pool.  There was of course the usual bellyaching about the sunblock that takes 40 minutes to apply to four children, and the usual dash for towels.  William must be certain that he gets a striped towel and not a polka-dotty one.  Heaven forbid he have to dry off with a polka-dotty towel.   

I wondered about my life.  I spent a lot of time wondering, this day.  Did we make the right choices?  Are we doing a good job?  When one of the children sass us, is it because we don’t spank them?  Maybe we should spank them.  Maybe we should put soap in their mouths.  Maybe hot sauce (someone once told me to try that…).  I wondered if we would regret not travelling more…not eating out more… 

I watched the kids swimming with their friends.  I watched the dads playing with the kids in the water.  I sat with Ella on the pool steps.  There was music playing at the lifeguard stand.  Mostly some awful country songs (I’m not a fan, sorry), but Ella was enjoying it.  She danced. 

“I love your dancing, Ella.”

“Oh, thank you, Mommy.”

I think in that little exchange many of my answers came.

We came home, put on some dry clothes, and went out into the woods to gather some branches for the fire pit.  We roasted hot dogs over the fire.  I served watermelon in chunks.  No forks.  The juice ran down their chins.  It ran down to their elbows.  It dripped on their shirts.  I let them eat as many chips as they wanted.  Together we drank an entire pitcher of lemonade. 

Poor Ella was completely spent.  So I took her inside to clean up in the bath.  Is there nothing more wonderful than clean child, fresh from the bath?  Wrapped in a warm towel, I held her and dried her.  I brushed her hair, and then we read a little bit of Olivia, and she was asleep by 6:40. 

When the others were finished with s’mores, they showered.  Kate and I took turns reading Harry Potter to the boys.  The Man and I tucked them in bed, and then we sat on the stoop together with a glass of wine.  There was this funny little wren that has built a nest in my planter.  Every time I water that planter, that little wren scares the pants off me.  Every time.  You would think that I’d learn, right?  Anyway, we watched this little wren.  We were clearly cramping her style, and making her very uneasy.  We watched as small bats flew around the sky, swooping and climbing.  We talked about how much bigger the bushes were than the last time we’d sat out on the stoop with a glass of wine.  We decided that we would do this every Sunday, until it got too cold.  And then maybe we’ll sit in front of the fire on cold Sunday evenings.  Yes, I like that idea very much.

Sitting out there, I realized that there hasn’t been enough of this kind of day lately.  The kind of day that we just play.  The kind of day that life is just relaxed, and fun, and not rushed and critical and rigid.  I know that can’t be every day.  I know that chores still have to get done.  I know that the kids can’t eat weenies and chips and s’mores and lemonade every night.  I know.  But maybe more frequently would be okay. 

So, I’m unplugging for the remainder of August.  We are going to play, dammit, if it kills me.

See you in September…

What a summer day causes me to do.