lunch and christmas gift exchange with Dave

Too many of us never understand what we owe to our dear ones — until there remains no further opportunity of paying love’s debt.  JR Miller

I just downloaded 44 photos that could be grouped into a gazillion blog posts.  I was tempted to just dump them all into ONE but I can’t, I just can’t.  They deserve their own posts.  (Okay, It really might be ten, but with the rate I’ve been blogging it would take me a gazzillion days to post the ten.  I’m determined to do a blog a day until I’m caught up.)

I’m sitting on the couch in the livingroom.  Three of our four cats are prowling around.  Walter is sitting like a king by the kitchen door, Sherlock is sitting on the counter watching over things.  Bagheera snuck up behind Sherlock wanting to play and was hissed at, meanly.

Grace is also prowling around, warming up a cornbag and preparing a breakfast bagel.

It’s a gift to have her home on break for the next few weeks.  Her older brothers already had to drive back to Castleton on the 1st.  We are thinking about going to visit them at some point, just for the fun of it.

But today Grace and I are picking up Seth at the school at 10:30 for an orthodonist appointment.  He has an expander on the roof of his mouth, and a habit breaker, and I wonder if he’ll have either one of them removed today.  That would be nice for him.

Rich and Dave have a wrestling meet today after school.

This would be a nice weekend to visit us if you want to see the boys wrestle.  Dave has a meet on Saturday.  Caleb and Seth have their first meet on Sunday.  They will both be half- a- day long affairs, I will be taking headphones, a charger, and a book so the noise and activity doesn’t daze and confuse me.  I’m already praying they have fun and do as well as they can.  I’ll let you know if they place and get medals.

Sarah Joy was rummaging around the shelves this morning searching for lost school library books until I finally said, “You should have done this last night!” and she went to school with one missing.  She’s wearing blue pants, a purple velvet-textured shirt with ruffled sleeves, her trademark ponytail.  And a smile.

This morning I’m thinking about way back on December 18, 2018 when I drove to Clarks Summit.  The purpose of the trip was first and foremost to get my daughter home for Christmas, but at the same time I was able to spend time with Joanna and stay the night all by myself in a hotel.

I was also able to visit with my brother Dave.  He drove about an hour to meet me for lunch at a favorite little Greek diner.  He did all the ordering and we had the grandest time sitting and enjoying each other’s company while eating delicious food.

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Dave is one of the best brothers in the whole wide world (I have two others).  We are a year and two months apart in age and we like to tell each other, “You’re my original best friend.” It’s true.  We’ve been together all these years, and now, even though we live 4 hours apart, we text each other almost daily and talk on the phone once or twice a month.

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This was before our main lunch plates came out!  We had spinach pie, a piece of cheese that the waitress lit on fire next to our table so we could eat it sizzling hot, and pita with a sour cream/feta cheese dip.  All of the foods had Greek names that I now cannot remember, (I should have taken notes.)

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Then our meat kabobs came out and we kept right on eating.

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We ate and we ate and we ate and then had dessert.  We were stuffed full of good food.

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The waitress cleared away our dishes and packed up the remainder of my cheesecake, which I would finish eating at 9 o’clock that night.  I asked her to take a photo of us and now I have this picture to remind me of the day Dave came to meet me for lunch.

I’m leaning toward the computer screen right now, looking at it and smiling because I can’t help it.

***

I posted the quote at the beginning of this post as a reminder to me to take every opportunity I can to spend time with the people I love, and to show them that I care about them.

nancy drew books

When I was around 10 years old my Grandma brightened up my entire world by giving me a set of Nancy Drew books, which I absolutely loved to read.  I got so I would read one a day….all summer long…the summer I was ten.

I love how as an adult you remember things you did as a kid and think, “I still do that!!”  I HATE endings, I hate finishing things that are extra-special.  Most of the time you just have to go ahead and end, but sometimes you have a choice and just can’t.  For example, I read Winnie the Pooh to my son when he was little and I never read him the last chapter because I just couldn’t.  Well, I never read the last Nancy Drew book from Grandma, either………I never will.  It would be over.

I kept them all on a bookshelf in my bedroom,  in an orderly row.  My baby brother Isaac went through a stage when he would deliberately crawl in my bedroom just to pull himself up and pull all big sister’s nice books down in a heap.  I wonder if we have a photo of that.  I would have to put them all back again every single day, half annoyed and half forgiving because he was so cute and I loved him.

I had neglected the books.  I had all but forgotten their existence.

BUT THEN.  My brother David went to a huge antique store in Savannah, Georgia and sent me these photos:

(by the way it feels so good to be seen and known and loved by family–by Grandma years ago, and by Dave in sending me these photos bc he remembered I had them)

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The memory of Nancy Drew books came back to me as I thought of how amazed I was when Grandma gave me the set, how I treasured them and read them.  I would study the titles and the pictures on each cover.  I loved the size and feel of the books in my hands and their nice hard yellow covers.  I thought how I’ve kept them for 32 years now…..but not on shelves.  Shelf space for Nancy Drew had run out years ago and other books had become more important because life was busy with raising seven children and I rarely had time to read anything but children’s books to them, and no time to enjoy my own collection of books, much less the ones from my own childhood.  I like to enjoy my books by looking at them, pulling one out to look through, putting it back, rearranging them, putting them in neat orderly rows.  Feeling that they were mine, all mine.

I texted him back:  “When I was 10 Grandma gave me the whole set.  And I read one every day.  I should put them on shelves instead of in boxes.”

I’ve been cleaning and cleaning the basement for days.  And as I did, I came across some of the books!

Yesterday, Dave (my son) had an appointment and afterwards had to go back to school, but, “It would be WRONG if we were right next to Goodwill and didn’t run inside quick.”

WE FOUND A BOOKCASE!  It was made of pine (light enough for me to carry myself) and only cost 10 dollars.

Once books are on a shelf no one notices the shelf anymore so any ol’ bookcase of any quality (as long as it is sturdy) will do for books.  When I showed it to Rich he asked how much I paid and I said thirty and he said “good” and then I laughed and said “IT WAS TEN!!!!” to surprise him and impress him.

It was wonderful to gather up my old Nancy Drews out of a dark lonely box and put them all in one spot for the first time in 20 years.  I opened them up to see my name written inside.  I admired the covers.

There were a BUNCH MISSING.

This morning I wanted to blog and could not find my computer anywhere.  David uses it more than I do these days so I kept muttering his name as I went from room to room looking for MY computer.  Ugh.  I felt just as annoyed as I did when I found all my books on the floor.  Boys!  Brothers and sons.  cute.  loved.

I remembered that he had gone to the garage where we have a work out room upstairs.  He goes over there every day to exercise and he is very proud of his resulting muscles.  “Maybe he took my computer to the work out room,” I thought.  I don’t like going to the garage and mainly stay away.  But I tromped on over to look and… since I was there… I looked in the storage closet and FOUND A WHOLE BUNCH MORE OF MY BOOKS.

Thanks Dave (1) for inspiring me and thanks Dave (2) for misplacing my computer and forcing me into the garage this morning!  It’s all because of you two that I’m getting this silly little project done!

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I carried them back to the house in this basket.

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Getting ready to add them to the shelf.

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the shelf I bought at goodwill for ten dollars is already filled up

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I wrote down the ones I am still missing.  It’s like a treasure hunt!  I bet they’re around here somewhere!

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the beautiful blue of an autumn sky

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Samantha cat has a sore paw.

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Seth

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David was using this tool to retrieve Seth’s football from the pond.  He wasn’t being nice. He knew he had to do it because he was the one who kicked it in.

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When he saw me up on the porch taking his photo with my zoom lens he did what he loves to do…….

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…..take his shirt off and show off those muscles from his daily work-outs.

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I have three brothers and these five sons. (photo from 8 years ago)

Why am I crying?  I guess it’s because I’m happy and life is beautiful…and fleeting.

the fifth son

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No, it is not his birthday.

Seth will be not be 9 for two more months.

He is lively, bright, active, your- typical- boy -but -maybe- just a notch or two- more hyper.  He is a lot like my brother Nathan was at that age, always moving, always using the furniture as gym equipment.

By the way, let me remind you that he had three staples in his scalp and fractured his collarbone on Halloween?  He’s all better.  We had the trainer at the HS school check him out this weekend and he said he was good to go.  So he had his first wrestling practice last night.  On the way there he confided, “I feel nervous.”  “I think you’re excited,” I answered.  “Yes,” he agreed.

Last week after he got back home from school he put a paper on the counter and came over to me and said in a hesitant voice, “Mom, I have a note from school.”  “Oh no,” I thought.  “What is it, Seth?  Did you get in trouble?”  “Just read it, Mom,” he said sadly.  So I rushed over to the paper, picked it up, and learned that Seth had been awarded the Hall of Fame for good behavior and work in his classes.  So apparently my son is also a good actor because he had me fooled at first.

I squealed and hugged him and gave him a big ol’ kiss on the cheek.  He bounded away, “Mama’s proud of me.” he just knew it.

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He got dressed all nice for school.  I had bought him a nice Jcrew sweater from a consignment shop…..I’m dying to find out if it’s still on him for the assembly, which is TODAY.  IN 45 MINUTES!  You see the peek of orange underneath, I bet he’ll be wearing the orange t-shirt for his award.  ?????  I wonder????  It’s happened before with my other sons.  Seth is number 5 so he has to prove to me that I DON’T KNOW ALL THE TRICKS YET!  He’s an original, just like number one (Jacob) number two (Ethan) number three (David) and number four (Caleb).  We are surrounded by brothers.

I’ll let you know if he’s still wearing the sweater.

I noticed, too, that he PUT A NECKLACE ON.  Be still my heart.

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This was his favorite photo.

Instead of bouncing off the walls of the house, chattering and laughing and being silly as he waited for the bus, he was having his photo taken on the driveway!

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No, not because it is his birthday.

But because……..he is getting awarded for being a good student today at school!

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“No more pictures, mom!”

We turned to go into the house and saw………

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Miss Sarah!  Wearing the same pants she had worn to school the day before.  And needing her hair fixed.  “Oh yes, I have things to do,” I cried.  And sent her back upstairs to “put different pants on!”  Goodness.  Find your socks and shoes and grab the hairbrush.

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It’s the 6th day of December.

All is well.

 

back to the blog

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Last weekend, Rich left with Grace, David, and Caleb to go to camp in NH for a week.  Jacob and Ethan stayed home so they could work and I left for NY (back home) with Seth and Sarah.  I thought it would be a good chance for a lengthy visit with family, not to mention that the church I grew up in was also having their children’s VBS and I knew Seth and Sarah would love that experience.   We drove to my parent’s house on Saturday and spent the weekend with them, and for the rest of the week we stayed next door to my Aunt Colleen’s house, in her in-laws’ downstairs apartment of convenience and delight.

I only took my phone with me; no big Nikon this time, and no laptop; thus the silence from wordpress blogging.  I did update FB and instagram now and then.

It’s good to be home!  I have lots of pictures to share from our week away.

Sarah is snuggled up next to me playing my kindle and talking while I type.

 

One of the things Mom and Dad and all their decendents do at this time every year is pick as many wild blueberries from Mom and Dad’s blueberry patch across the road. . . . .

 

Brother Nate and Brother Dave were so fun with their antics….Nate refusing to pick because he was “made to do it too much when he was a kid” and he “doesn’t like picking”.  Dave teasing Dad and having little conversations with Sarah.  There are so many bushes that we end up wandering off on our own, but still talking, laughing, teasing, and making strange noises to each other.  Everyone who was willing to pick had a cup or a basket to put berries in.

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When we were done, my mom and sisters in law baked a cake using Mom’s cookbook that she copied out in her pretty handwriting when she was a young teenager.

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Mom added lemon zest to the recipe and it was fantastic.

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Melissa and Maria went through all the berries we picked and cleaned, bagged, and labeled them.

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We visited the garden and saw snakes.

 

In the end of day golden hour, Mom and Sarah went out for MORE picking.  Sarah ate so many blueberries that day we starting giving her warnings about digestive issues.  🙂

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After church on Sunday, I took Seth and Sarah to my favorite local & independent bookstore in the area where Sarah “adopted” an owl and I bought a crossword puzzle book (too hard) and a novel.

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We walked the busy and interesting main street and made a stop in several shops, including one in the historical society.  I took a picture of the arrowheads; this area of NY has many Native American artifacts which are always fascinating.

I would have stayed and read every word but alas, my little children were not as interested as I was.

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Back at Mom and Dad’s, Mom and the grands made another cake to use up bananas.

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And played foosball.  Mom laughed so hard, I wish I could remember why.  She and I were taking turns playing.  I was sitting and trying to do a cross word puzzle, too.

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Sunday evening, more picking!  Some of the bushes are so tall Mom has to bend them down for Sarah to reach (and hide in).

Tomorrow I will blog about the rest of our week.

(I can’t concentrate right now….too many interruptions).

HUGS!

what the boys are up to

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Actually only four of the boys were photographed on this day (last weekend). . . .this one is David.  14 years old.  Eighth grade.

He does flips all the time–front ones and back ones.  Last Friday his class went on a special outing to an amusement park for the day and they had freedom to wander around, go on all the rides, and in David’s case, attract girls by doing flips.  He was approached and asked for his Snapchat (nonexistent) and instagram (currently defunct) by the girls.  He was proud to tell me the story, however.

David is on the Juniors baseball team and has the highest batting average of the kids there.  He is known for his prowess in stealing bases.

David watches The Flash every day, he has seen each episode more than once (or even twice?).  I complain but secretly credit the show for his relentless need for speed.  They sometimes call him Flash during baseball games and practices.

He will enter High School in the fall.  Sometimes he jumps off the upstairs landing on to the couch below…..he’s been wanting to do that since he was 4.  He likes music, playing the piano, and playing video games with his big brother Jacob.  He is a night owl and typically on a Saturday morning we will forget he’s even home because he sleeps in so long.  He is a natural born pessimist and can find something negative about any situation which at this point only makes us laugh as we try to help him see the better part of things.  He’s also possessive about his stuff or things he believes belong mainly to him.  He only lets his dad hug him because I am “a woman.”

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He was straining so hard to flex every muscle he possibly could.

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Seth is the youngest boy and still a mama’s boy.  He loves it when I’m right by the fence keeping my eyes on him and only him during baseball games.  Part of this is because he knows sooner or later I will be gone……over at the other field to give his brother a turn, too.  Seth is almost done with 2nd grade and does really well in Math.  Reading and writing, not so much, although I have noticed that his actual penmanship is improving.  He has reading homework every night so these days I get the bedtime story.  He reads to me about presidents, owls, money, sharks, or volcanos.  RARELY does he chose a story, it’s usually a educational book about different topics.

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He is very light hearted and energetic.  I heard his coach reprimand him several times last night for his energy and impatience and goofiness during practice.  He is a well rounded athlete and does very well in each sport he joins.

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He is easily influenced.  If he watches Garfield (one of his favorite shows and book) he has to eat pizza.  If he watches a baseball movie, he doesn’t last the first 10 minutes before he’s outside with a ball and glove.  As soon as his brothers took their shirts off (out of vanity), his came off as well (out of imitation).

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Caleb read the most books in his class this year.  He thought he would win a kindle and spent the entire year working toward his goal.  He wanted that kindle so much.  Imagine his dismay at the final awards assembly and only ONE kindle was given out, and by a raffle no less.  The child who won it had only read 2 books all year.

Rich and I bought him a kindle.

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Caleb loves burying himself in his pillows and covers when he sleeps and always appears  in the morning with amazing bed-head.  He’s 11 so I have to remind him to change his clothes—he can’t be bothered—he has stuff to do.  Mainly sports—football being his absolute favorite.  Yesterday Seth had practice at 6 and Caleb had practice at 7 so with his extra hour he played a pick up game of football with 7 other boys.  I like to walk around the park while I wait and I smile as I watch Caleb playing with his friends.  He is a good friend.

Caleb can’t forget about things.  He worries.  For example, if he has a game in two days and the extended forecast is rain—he will constantly check the weather, ask me about the weather, ask his Dad about the weather, wondering if it really will rain.  It’s a sign that he cares deeply about his likes and dislikes.  He’s sensitive and wants his loved ones to have everything they want.  When I make dinner he will always say he loves it, unfortunately I don’t ever know if he is sparing my feelings or telling the truth.   He keeps his Christmas toys and legos pristine because he wants us to know he liked them and so we won’t be sad to have them get lost or broken.  If his Dad wants to go to Pinkberry and I say “no” Caleb’s heart hurts for his Dad and he feels so sorry for him.  Poor Dad.  He wanted pink berry and mom said no.  And then I feel like a jerk (in this case he only thinks of one person’s feelings–his dad’s).

The other day I was standing at the couch folding clothes when Caleb walked by and remarked, “I’m almost as tall as you are Mom.”

Caleb is in the band and it makes my heart so happy to watch him count the beats.  He’s a percussionist.

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Ethan is home for the summer and just got his first paycheck yesterday.  As I was in a gleeful mood, I got out his baby book and glued it in with much drama.  (after it was electronically cashed, of course).  I made sure not to put glue on the half that had his signature so that by lifting the end we will always be able to see his name there.

He’s working at the same company as his dad and they ride to work together.  (I refrained from adding five exclamation points after that sentence, it just makes me so happy.)

Rich wakes Jacob and Ethan up on M, W, and F mornings so they can go work out together.  Yesterday he fell down half the stairs because Seth had left his shoe on the step.  He accomplished his goal (of waking Jacob) and thankfully didn’t hurt himself.  The three of them have such a good time pushing each other in their workouts and it has really paid off.  They are all very buff.

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Ethan is staying in shape for college wrestling, Jacob is getting in shape for college football and wrestling.  By the way, Jacob isn’t in any of these photos because he wasn’t home at the time.  So sad.

Jacob and Ethan are both going to the same college in the fall and will be roommates.

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Ethan is at his girlfriend Tessa’s house every chance he gets.  He is busy working during the week and doesn’t get home until around 5:30 or 6pm.  He is the most quiet of all the boys.  He knows what matters, he knows sincerity and good character is important.

All three of the older boys are always making pots of pasta.  They get hungry and eat the dinners I make each evening and then make more food around 8pm.  The pantry is always stocked with boxes and bags of pasta and jars of sauce.

Showing off.

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And being cute.

Rich and I do the best we can with these boys.  We make a good team.  He tends to focus on their character and goals and I tend to focus on their health, nutrition, and general wellness.   I also try to find out all the information I can about their private lives, too.  LOL (like, does anyone have a girlfriend that I don’t know about).  Caleb told me a girl asked him out yesterday but he said no.  Um, you’re only 11.

They make me happy every single day because they end up surprising me to laughter.  You can’t be bored as a mom of five sons.

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Eventually a normal game of catch wasn’t good enough….we had to throw gloves and make up different ways to catch and throw the ball.

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And then they got lost in the woods for a while.  After a while, from our chairs on the porch, Rich and I saw them appear again.  We watched them walking together and felt so proud of these boys of ours.

We are surrounded by brothers.

 

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I just cried a little

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Brother Dave sent me this text last night:   _ _ _ _ _   _ _ _ _ !!!

We texted back and forth, playing “wheel of fortune” style but with only one letter guesses like every hour or so and none from 9pm-7am.  He was very strict.  If I tried to sneak in extra guesses I got a big huge red “X” back.

After all those hours, I finally ended up with this:  happy _a_ _ !!! and then while I was down taking care of the chickens waiting for the time I could guess again, the answer popped right into my head.

So then the mail came and there was a package.  I ran to the house, opened it up and saw a wrapped present, which revealed neatly folded yards of fabric:  one of cherries and one of cats.  Two things I ADORE.

This is from my brother.  He’s turning 40 in a month.   What 40 year old motorcycle riding manly man with a big beard and tattoos does this???  My brother that’s who.

He had driven our mom to the fabric store over the weekend and as she browsed, he selected and bought the fabric for me, took it back home with him, wrapped it in pretty paper, and mailed it.

I’m crying over the thoughtfulness and text him a big thank you.

He writes me back, “It’s the little things that mean the most.”

 

encouraged

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By the pond there is a Pinxter bush about to bloom.  I remember my Grandparents had one of these wild shrubs on their beautiful country farmhouse lawn.  Two years ago I noticed a nice one growing on our own property by the pond.  It took me over five years to notice it because it was hidden behind a boulder and snuggled into a pine tree.  Of course whenever it blooms I think of family, and Grandma.  The comments in the National Audubon Society Field guide say they can be transplanted into wild shrub gardens.  As there is also a large healthy one growing down the road a bit, the next time I go outside I will take a shovel and see if I can find a smaller one growing near it to move into my garden.

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One of my favorite birds is the Catbird.  Why, you ask?  Admittedly, it is a very common gray bird but I don’t care as much about it’s simple looks, what I enjoy the most about the humble catbird is its beautiful songs.  Almost every time I go outdoors the song of catbirds stops me in my tracks.

I was tickled pink to see that one was making a very nice nest in a tree by the pond.  The nest is on a branch low enough for me to look at easily, too.  It is constructed of dry straw and wet mud, which is probably why the wise bird chose to make one near the pond.  The stream is nearby as well.  I bent the branch down carefully to look inside.  The mud was still wet but the nest was lined carefully with dry grass, and the cavity was deeper than I expected.  I looked into it once and am now determined to keep my distance and wait to see if a family is raised.

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The children were all busy cleaning the house on Saturday and while I was taking some pictures, Seth came all the way down the lawn to find me and ask if this cleaner could be used on windows.

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chicken house

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hummingbirds are frequent visitors to the porch

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I went to check the development of the Lady’s Slippers on the dam trail.  This one was opening but still green.

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This one was up and fully open.  It was interesting to me that the two I saw on the left side of the trail were still closed, but the three on the right hand side were open.  It must be sunnier on that side.

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Another name for them is “Pink Moccasin flower”

Comments:  “One of the largest native orchids, this species is found both in low sandy woods and in higher, rocky, mountain woods.  Several hundred of these striking flowers can sometimes be counted within a small area.  Nevertheless, like other woodland wildflowers, it should not be picked.  Nor should it be dug up for transplanting, as lady’s slippers reproduce poorly and are very difficult to grow in wildflower gardens.”

Lady’s slippers are a family favorite.

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These wild Lily of the Valley grow in a large patch close to the ground in the woods.  (Thank you to Johanna for helping me identify them!)

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Then I visited the spot where the wild columbine grows and sure enough, it was up and in bloom.  We called these “honeysuckle” when we were children, and we nibbled the honey-filled ends.

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They grew on the side of the road but the ones I visit now grow on an old rock wall in the woods. And I haven’t nibbled on them in many many years.

“This beautiful woodland wildflower has showy, drooping, bell-like flowers bearing distinctly backward-pointing, tubular spurs, similar to those of garden columbines.  These spurs contain nectar that attracts hummingbirds and long-tongued insects…….”

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wild geranium, growing on the side of the road

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an interesting fuzzy flowered bush that grows by our stream

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unfurling ferns

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interesting patch of tall grass by stream

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A little bouquet of common wildflowers.

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in an Ivory fiesta tumbler

I like it when David comes to visit me while I am reading on the porch.  David is currently:  reading The Outsiders, trying to grow his hair long, drawing, wearing & caring for a leather coat that he bought at a second hand store, making facial masks using youtube videos, and doing a lot of jumping/flipping/twisting on the trampoline.

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bros

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And now for a short story:  As much of you are aware, Sarah needs surgery to repair an obstructed kidney (it doesn’t drain correctly, which is why she developed infection and stones).  After these particular test results came back, she had a specially-made appointment scheduled ASAP for surgery consultation— for May 24th (today).  When I checked my calendar later that day, I cried because it was the day of her very first field trip, which she was very excited about.  I felt so terrible for her,  “She’s been through so much this year she shouldn’t have to miss any of her fun day for such a dreadful thing like surgery consultation.” (the only reason why she has to attend the visit is so that they can be billed—as they should be)  So I called to ask for advise and to see if I could make the appointment a different day….but no, the doc’s schedule is very full and they had to work it to get Sarah in so quickly and in their opinion, Sarah would have other field trips and this appointment needs to be prioritized, so on and so forth.  So I agreed but didn’t tell Sarah because I didn’t have the heart.

Well………………….this came home yesterday in her folder:

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That’s right.  The field trip was moved to May 31st!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s raining!

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It’s like God said to me, “I got this.”  🙂