Previous month:
January 2013
Next month:
March 2013

The uneven eyelashes come home

When I was a child, I was sort of infamous in the family for my sleeping habits. Or perhaps more accurately, my not-sleeping habits. Heh. Yeah. So all the whining about Sophia's sleep? That's nothing more than God's loving gift to my parents. And brother, whom I apparently harassed mercilessly at 2 AM to get up and play with me. 

Y'all, once, when I was about two? We were living in some dorms, Mom and Dad in one room, Josh and I in the adjoining room. They'd put us to bed then go to their room to study for the rest of their lives. And they kept running into people who lived in that dorm who said, "OH, Kira is so sweet in the evenings when she comes down and plays with us in the lobby!" And they thought, no, you're mistaken, Kira is sleeping at that time. But, as it turns out, I was NOT sleeping. I was escaping from my crib, opening the door onto the hallway, and toddling out into whatever adventures I could find. For reals, guys, I owe my parents some sort of REALLY NICE retirement home some day.

Mom had to sit in the hallway outside my door and hold the handle to prevent me from escaping. She says I would stand there for an hour, quietly trying and trying and trying to turn the knob. Then I fell asleep on the floor right inside the door. A REALLY NICE retirement home.

Another typical story of my sleep adventures is about how I used to get up seventeen trillion times every night after being put to bed. My memory is that I was sent to bed somewhere around 3 in the afternoon - some RIDICULOUSLY early hour. This may not be entirely accurate. Anyhow, when I was school aged, I would get up to request drinks, bathroom visits, extra hugs, can we chat about the state of the economy, you know. Whatever would save me from my room.

One night Mom was sitting, chatting with a friend, and I came out, both forefingers hovering in front of my eyes. 

"Mom?" I said soberly, "Mom, my eyelashes are uneven."

And then Mom fell off her chair, laughing, and sent me back to my room. Her friend shook her head and muttered, "I don't know why you don't just beat her." This had not been my first escape from my room that night. Heh.

But there is a STORY behind the uneven eyelashes and this is it: I had been taking a pottery class at the local Y. When we finished forming our works-of-genius amorphous bowls, they were put in the kiln. The teacher told us all, several times, very sincerely, NOT TO LOOK IN THE PEEP HOLE while the kiln was firing. WE COULD GO BLIND.

So I, with the peculiar wisdom of childhood, thought that direct orders were for chumps and there must be something GREAT to see in that peep hole. I snuck over to look in it the first chance I got.

What there was in the peep hole was a tiny portion of all the heat and light in the actual kiln, and I promptly burnt off all the eyelashes on one eye and singed the lid. I yanked my head back, looked around to be sure no one had noticed, and then went on with my day as casually as possible.

But that night, as I poked experimentally at my tender eyelid and felt the stubble of what remained of my lashes, I started to wonder if I might not actually go blind. I could be blind BY MORNING. As a matter of fact, didn't the light seem extra dim all of a sudden? THAT is why I had to go show my mom RIGHT NOW, and the fact that it got me out of my bed? Again? After being severely warned NOT TO? Well. It couldn't be helped.

The reason I am telling you this is because my precious snowflake, my little princess, my non-sleeping miracle from heaven, just called out from her bed (where she is still not yet sleeping), "DAD! DAD! COME HERE! I JUST POKED MY EYE!"

And lo. The circle was complete.

I mentioned a little while ago that we buy our beef from some Catholic sisters who raise cattle in Northern Colorado. The Abbey of St. Walburga is a community of contemplative Benedictine nuns. They've been important to my family in ways beyond just the awesome beef (and I do love me some awesome beef). My mom goes up there to study about once a month - and this started even before she wanted to be Catholic, which just goes to show - be careful around those contemplative nuns. My dad helps them every so often with things like fence building. He takes the boys sometimes, and they love it up there. Last time Raphi went, he fell in love with a cow named Woody. As one does.

Actually, I was almost the last one in the family to visit the Abbey, so the other day Dad invited me along. He was taking up some gates? I don't know how this stuff happens with Dad, it just does. So Clay took the day off work to ride herd, and Dad and I headed north.

Northern Colorado is not an area I find terrifically beautiful. It reminds me somewhat of New Mexico, and while there is beauty in New Mexico, there's...a lot of land to go through to get there. But you roll through miles of nondescript farmland on your way to the Abbey, and then you turn into the mouth of a valley - and it's suddenly beautiful. So beautiful that it even looks beautiful in February. Generally the only beauty you can see from February is March. 

I got to wander around and take a look at their chickens and pet some of their barn cats. One little grey and white furry specimen of perfection was named Chesterton, and despite the fact that he and I clearly loved each other, I wasn't able to take him home.

Sr. Marie Walburga and Sr. Gertrude showed us around. They were so friendly and gracious (and funny) that I even got over my childish awe at talking to real NUNS. They do most of the work with the cows, and so they could tell us all about them. They showed me how to feed a cow bits of cow cake, and as I did, I thought...


"Yup. That's just what cow tongue looks like."

It's calving season, and they have a naming tradition where the baby has the first initial as the mama, and then all the season's names have a theme. This year the babies are being named after sauces, seasonings, or herbs. So this little guy, the one that looks stuck between the fence and the water trough...

IMG_0403 named Salsa. He's not stuck. He's just apparently not very bright.

And this beautiful creature...

IMG_0411_1 named Tapioca. Isn't she gorgeous? I was not allowed to take her home with me either. 

This little one...

IMG_0407 named Bud Light. Just because his mama is named Bud. I think his real name is Bubbles, which, now that I think of it, doesn't really make sense either. But Bud Light! Ha!

While we were there, a calf was born, with very little fanfare. The mama, Molly, is a pro. We were there when she started birthing, but the crowd seemed to make her nervous. I totally understand, Molly. I DO. So we left, and just 15 minutes later or so...


...BABY! See that look Molly's giving you? That's either "back off from my baby" or "hey, got any cow cake? I'm pretty sure I'm owed cow cake."

The sisters got to discussing names. It was a girl, so they needed a girl's name that was herb, seasoning, or sauce that started with "M." Mint? Mole? Wasn't Mole more of a boy's name? How about Myrtle?

"Oh, I like Myrtle," I said, placing my vote despite it not technically having been asked for, "call her Myrtle!"

"Okay," said Sr. Marie Walburga, "we will, if you put her on your blog.


And so I did.

And although I came home without any kitties or calves, they did send us off with a plate of cookies that were all of Sophia's favorite things, pink, hearts, and cookies. I mean. And some manchego cheese that Sr. Gertrude made, and some milk that had just been milked that morning. 

It was lovely, it was peaceful, it was a beautiful place to be. And now I can't wait to go back.

Okay, before I give you any advice, you should probably know who you're dealing with here. This evening I dropped an entire box of garlic powder on myself and my kitchen. I don't even USE garlic powder usually, but I had it in hand today for SOME REASON - although not for long. Yeesh. I'm thinking we're making a mistake with the whole military drone use stuff. What we need to have our drones do is to drop boxes of garlic powder in the kitchens of our enemies. They will be entirely neutralized, being busy for the rest of their lives, scrubbing stupid garlic powder out of everything in the known universe. It is non-violent, if not entirely humane.

This is the level of genius you're accessing here. And I don't even charge a subscription fee. 

Nonetheless, I'm here to tell you that you should come back tomorrow, because I'm intending to post about meeting my meat. That is, I went up to the Abbey that we buy our beef from, and I did meet the cows, and I saw a brand-new baby cow, and best of all, I got to hang out with some of the nuns who take care of it all, and it was beautiful. But tonight I am so tired that my eyes are malfunctioning (and I smell like garlic), so tune in tomorrow! I have brand-new baby calf pictures!

Remember that you are dust

Tonight the family went to Mass, because it's Ash Wednesday. There's something so spare and beautiful about the imposition of the ashes. I still remember the first time I saw a priest form that smudge of a cross on baby Tre, above his jewel bright brown eyes. It sent a chill down my spine.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

That always seemed like a grim burden to carry. To walk out into the world, we creatures of dust, and to try to live lives that are good and bright. 

Tonight the church was packed, and we were almost late, so we ended up in the back, jammed rather close together. Sophia was restless and...frankly, a little obnoxious. She wore pink shoes, turquoise leggings, a purple flouncy skirt, and a red shirt. As you're mentally assembling that picture, I urge you not to imagine any of those colors being muted. In any way. She was anxious to get to the part with the cross on her forehead, and clambered over and under everyone and everything, in her excitement. 

By the time we were ready to receive the ashes, I was a little dishevelled. Raphael, who is recovering from a cold, had been sniffling all through the service, and I was also tired from biting back my irritation. It's not okay to be mad at your child for nasal congestion. It's just not. 

We filed up, and Sophia jumped in front of me, smoothing her bangs back to expose as much forehead as possible.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

For the first time, watching her forehead be smudged with the promise of mortality, I realized that those words are not a warning at all. They are a promise.

What's more, they are a lovely and hopeful promise.

When I got home, I talked to a dear friend, who has recently shouldered more than is humanly possible, and who is preparing to take on even more soon. Out of love. Out of overwhelming, messy and imperfect, dusty love.

All of us, this massive and untidy family of humanity, are created of humble stuff. We can prove no reason to reach above what we are made of, and yet we do. Because we can just almost hear the invitation of One who loves us - not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

We are dust. And we are infused with love. And the love, it lives on.

Autocorrect owes me a dang brownie.

Today I made brownies, as a treat, for after dinner. The fact that it's just a random Thursday should have tipped the kids off that these weren't normal brownies. They were, in fact, Super Brownies (at least, that's how I thought of them). They were made of mostly sweet potato, with very little sugar (because, what, the "sweet" in "sweet potato" comes from...salt, maybe?), and just a smidge of coconut flour. And before you tell me how wrong that is, let me point an accusatory finger at the blogger who posted this recipe, who claimed the resulting brownies were "fudgy" and "silky." 

When I took them out of the oven and gave them an exploratory poke, they felt disconcertingly spongy. But I tamped down any misgivings, telling myself that they would surely cool into something fudgy and brownie-like. 

Dinner tonight was only a marginal success. The main course had detectable diced onion and red pepper, an unforgivable offense in the eyes of some of my children. Max, who could have accepted it, was feeling peaked and barely ate anything. Tre and Clay gave resounding approval, but you know. They'd eat the dog if she were properly seasoned, so it's hard to feel too proud on that count. I also roasted some asparagus, and it came out all lovely and caramelized and frizzy-headed, but this too was met with a shrug by all those assembled under the age of 18. 

But we finally made our way to the end of the meal, and someone remembered there were brownies! For dessert! And lo, our joy was made complete.

Except not really, because as I began cutting into them, it was clear that they were awfully soft. And sort of smeary.

"Hmm," I said, "maybe these are still too warm." I carefully lifted one piece out, and it held together well enough, so I handed it to Clay, and proceeded to pass them around the table. They were sort of spongy. 

"They're not warm," Clay said, prodding his brownie, "they're just And...moist?"

"REALLY moist," Tre agreed.

"Almost wet," Raphi chimed in, dabbing at his brownie with a napkin. I continued passing them out, being impressed at least with my family's determination not to hurt my feelings. Then I handed one to Sophia. She reached out and took it, then recoiled.

"EWWW! I don't LIKE IT when my brownie is all SLOBBERY!" she shrieked.

So now I think I know what the problem was with the original message. What the blogger meant to say was not "fudgy" and "silky" but "spongy" and "slobbery." It's clearly an autocorrect issue. Good to know.

Sophia, in stories and pictures

Nov&Dec12 087

Sophia and I have a deal - if she stays in her bed, quietly, but can't go to sleep after prayers, I will come upstairs and say some extra prayers with her. Tonight, a few minutes after she'd been tucked in I heard the thundering pitter-pat of tiny feet, apparently training for the 100-meter dash or something. She raced from one side of her room to the other, pausing only to leap and (from the sounds of it) twirl. It was a percussive exploration of the frustration of bedtime, played out on my living room ceiling.

"Sophia!" I called out, "You need to stay in your bed if you want me to come upstairs!" She froze in place, then after a long minute, said wonderingly,

"How did you KNOW?"

Because your mama is a genius, dear child. A genius.

Nov&Dec12 028

A while ago Raphael and Sophia got into some sort argument. Those two could argue about the ambient air pressure, I swear. Sophia stomped away into the next room, shaking her head and bellowing,

"That is the SECOND time Raphi has RUINED MY LIFE!"

And I'm betting it's not the last time, either. Those two deserve each other.

Christmas12 021

One night, after her bath, Clay was combing Sophia's hair. This is a process that she is convinced we invented just to persecute her and that we continue in this practice solely out of  the hardness of our hearts. The whole "so you don't look like a homeless child" is singularly unconvincing to her. This night, as Clay pulled the comb ever-so-gently through her hair, she sighed.

"Isn't it NICE for you?" she said, reaching up to pat his hair, "because when you comb your hair, you only have a LITTLE combing to do."

Now, I'm not saying that Clay's hair is thinning, per se, but I do credit him with massive self-confidence that this statement of hers made him laugh and laugh.

Fall12 030

Fall12 031

Fall12 032

Fall12 033

Fall12 034

Oh, if only someone paid attention to her.