Archive for March, 2010

It was love at first sight.

We drove all afternoon and into the sun-setting hours to get back home, taking turns driving as each napped for a while, heads bobbing, a startling snore or two drawing a smile from whoever was at the wheel.  NPR enlightened us through most of Wisconsin; a crane in the grasses here, wild turkeys rummaging there.

The Rockford Oasis was our last “pit stop”. That last leg always seems the longest. It was there we noticed, low in the darkened sky, the moon swelling just over the horizon. It was enormous and full and seemed to be glowing with a heavenly light as it crept into view.

Kezzie’s moon!

I don’t know why I said it. It crept in just as the moon did.

Every time, forever more, when I see a warm, full moon, orange in the sky, I will think of our granddaughter and how she crept up over the horizon and into our life and glowed so bright and new . . .

. . . just as she crept into our hearts as the warm breezes blew in on a new spring morning and she and her parents drew us north for a long awaited introduction.  The blessing crept onto my tongue as we watched the moon rise, higher and higher into the heavens. A cloud drifted across it and dusted the moon with a soft veil and a con trail slipped past, slicing it in half for a short while before a halo crowned it.

It was beautiful and magnificent as it guided us on that last, long, leg of our journey, returning us home and setting us down after this little girl swept us off our feet and stole our hearts away.

Pat, if you are reading this, you and Mel are in for such a delight. I see so much of her daddy in her face – and of you.

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Home alone . . .

.   .   .   or why newly minted grandparents should not be left unsupervised with stuffed animals in the nursery!

"Will somebody please put a baby in here? I'm lonely" said Mr. Bunn.

.    .    .  not to be outdone, the deer whisperer creeps, unseen, into the room.

"I need another glass of water", cries Mr. Bunn, practicing ways to get out of taking a much needed nap.

I hope Tom and Katy will let us babysit after they see these pictures of us playing with the baby’s toys!

More stories to follow on the 5 o’clock news!

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A whirlwind of family pictures seem to have blown in like the mighty March wind and have kept me up late into night as they stirred up memories and made me wonder anew about my family’s tree.

I think it is good to stir up memories now and again, don’t you agree?

This is my father as a little boy. His face has been cropped from a larger picture of his family.  The early 20th century type of picture. My grandfather, who I never knew, is sitting stoically on a chair. My grandmother, Yia Yia, is standing, her hand on his shoulder. My two uncles are bookends to their younger siblings. My father  is seen on the left, staring into the camera, his elbow resting on the arm Papou’s chair. My aunt is on her father’s other side, a little hand resting on his knee, the only daughter, and as cute as the buttons gracing her dress. My uncles are about 9 and 12, still in knickers but wearing some handsome belted jackets. I get a sense that the two younger ones are ready to bolt as soon as the flash goes off and that their hands are on my grandfather for a good reason.

I love this picture and have displayed it for many years. They are part of my roots.  I have other pictures of my maternal grandparents and I treasure them as well, but this one jumped out at me last week.

It happened when this little darling showed arrived in my inbox.

This is my father’s cousin. Bea. They were first cousins. Their father were brothers. Her face has also been cropped from a larger picture from the same time period. In the picture,  Bea and older sister Georgia are standing next to their first cousin, a beautiful young woman. Little sister Helen is sitting on her lap. The two older sisters are delightful in their little dresses and enormous bows in their hair. When I looked closely, I could see them grasping small purses. I can only imagine the fidgeting that went on to get those bows fastened. They are all looking at the camera, not smiling, except for baby Helen, who looks about to giggle and squirm.

When I opened up my email and the faces of nearly a century ago gazed back at me, I was taken by surprise at the strenghth of my family’s traits. There was something so familiar in Bea’s sweet little face looked out at me. It mirrored that of my father as a youngster that has looked out at me all these years.

I have been so amazed at how very deep our family roots grow – and how high it’s limbs reach.

I wonder, how I wonder, where they will reach next?

Tuesday. 10:30 am.

I couldn’t sleep last night and wrote this early in the morning. Something was moving me deep inside. I fell asleep around 2:30 only to be awakened around 3:30, and finally the news around 9:30 that our first grandchild, a girl, was born around at 8:17.

Our blessing are many.  March has always been a good month for girls to be born in my family.  Our strong family trees have just grown a new branch.

We are heading up north to to check this little miracle out.

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“Ain’t she sweet?”

This early riser is one of the brave bulbs I captured in a picture posted in February. She and her friends were just peeking through the snow and ice then, patiently saving their energy for just the right moment to show their true colors. I caught this darling daffodil primping in Friday morning’s sun. She patiently posed for me and the awakening day and I do believe she will be quite pleased with how the soft spring sunlight enhances her grace and beauty.

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Mrs. B and bubble gum

As I was watching speeches last Sunday night on the floor of the House of Representatives, someone other than the congressman speaking caught my attention and distracted me for a few moments.

Bubblegum.  A sharply dressed, professional woman, notebook in hand, intent on the person at the podium, an aide I assumed to the speaker of the moment, was right in the eye of cameras from around the world, fervently chewing gum! Gum!

Gum chewing is a pet peeve of mine. I’m not a gum chewer, though I have been known to blow a big bubble or two in my time, and I recognize that there are people who chew gum for any number of medical or dental reasons.

Mrs. B was the girls’ health teacher in my high school. She was a nurse who taught us health as part of the physical education curriculum. She taught all the sex education classes, which was considered health, which was considered physical education.  Mrs. B was stern, but often very funny. I can still see her fully attired in her nurse’s uniform, a starched white hat stiff on her auburn head, her daily uniform. She was the only adult dressed in stark white every single day of high school. She stood one morning in class, demonstrating what a girl looked like chewing gum,  rotating her jaw in an exaggerated way on a pretend wad of gum, and saying in a very firm voice “I just hate to see a pretty young girl chewing her gum like a cow chews her cud!“. This image always stuck with me (pun intended) and the woman on the television, whom I’m sure was quite professional, looked at that moment like Mrs. B’s cow chewing her cud.

Men do the same thing, in case anyone thinks they are exempt here.

I am the one who gets gum stuck on the bottom of my sandals on a 90° + day while at the zoo, trailing a sticky string of someone else’s taste for a yard or so before realizing that it I was sticking to sticky tar, and I was the kid who was the recipient of a wad from the prankster in the seat behind me in 4th grade and had to have it cut out of my long, pretty hair, and I was the one who one day sat in a piece of “abc” gum at a high school assembly . . .  you get the drift.

Jennifer came over to give us a massage this week. She will be certified as a massage therapist after a very intensive and long course of study, and she eagerly practices on us.  I might add that we are more than willing to succumb to the wonders she performs on our aching, aging muscles. Not a hard sacrifice, to say the least.

This week’s massage was the best ever and I was as mellow as could be when she and her magic touch left.  I was relaxed and re-hydrating and watching the news when the gum chewer of Sunday evening popped up briefly on the television. Chomp, chomp, chomp! I turned it off and picked up a magazine and there, right in front of me, was an article on gum with an image of bubble gum ice cream. Bubble gum – ice cream – and it all came back. My worst gum experience of all. The afternoon I took the girls out for ice cream. Katy, I’m sure, had something chocolate. Jennifer and friend Laura convinced me that they would eat it all and not make a mess and be silly if I let them each have a scoop of bubble gum ice cream.

Nothing is sillier than two little girls who promised not to be silly.

What was I thinking? What do you do with the bubble gum in ice cream, especially when you are 10 years old?  There was too much gum, cold gum,  for the girls’ mouths, especially chewed in with a giggle. They put it on napkins and the rim of a cup and I’m sure slipped  it somewhere unseen when my head was turned .  What do you do if you are on tv and all the world is watching?

I wondered if Mrs. B was.

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Last summer, working out in our island of plants, I kept noticing a bird that resembled a robin. It would hop along the ground, seemed agitated, but was not afraid to be close to us. Some time passed and this activity continued. We kept noticing the bird around the property line and always on the ground. One day, with robins around, we could see some distinct differences. He was bigger than the robins with a shorter tail and his colors were more orange.  He was more “grounded” and  didn’t fly up to the trees like a robin, nor would this bird splash about in a puddle or frequent the bird baths like our American robin – and there was an interesting black mark around it’s neck. This was a bird of a different family that I had not seen before.

Bird books came off the shelves and google was employed for information.

Bird books and internet searches – how I love doing research!

Image taken from the Illinois State Museum site. A lithograph from an original painting done by Richard Sloane.

Meadowlarks build their nests in the ground and feed primarily on insects and seeds. They are known to live in weedy orchards, which makes our property a good environment for them to set up of housekeeping.

On Monday, looking out the livingroom window, I saw what, at first sight, looked to be several robins. My excitement mounted when I saw the difference in the body size, color, which is more subtle than this picture, and the wonderful black bib that Mr. Meadowlark wears.

I was glad to see the meadowlark’s return and am hoping to discover a nest, or two as the male often takes two mates.

My heart sung at yet another sign that spring was in the air as I pulled the bird books out again and read about the meadowlarks and marveled at how much more there is to see and learn about in this world of ours.

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Part 2 of quack, quack, quack

Katy mentioned that the last part of yesterday’s blog was morbid and it got me to thinking that maybe others felt the same way. The ducklings in the verse really don’t get lost, they come back, again and again to teach children to count and play and move and learn.

Let me explain. What I wrote was only one stanza from a children’s rhyming song. It can be a finger counting rhyme or a movement activity and there are all sorts of examples you can explore on YouTube. My first grade teacher, Miss Blood, who married the year I had her and became Mrs. Thone, a very good name change for a first grade teacher, don’t you agree, taught us this little tune. We would squat down on our knees, hold our ankles with our hands, waddling and pretending to be ducks, all together quacking during the song’s refrain.

Needless to say,  I was a very awkward little duckling, though I could quack pretty well.

To add to the fun, there was a house with an alleyway on the way to school and guess what they had in their yard? Ducks! The ducks didn’t mind letting us visit through the grid of the fence – and neither did the homeowners. I was charmed, of course, by their darling duck faces and feathered bodies and all that quacking.

Click on and sing along: kids.niehs.nih.gov/lyrics/fiveducks.htm


If you need visuals, this is the site for you:


On a trip to Boston a few years ago, we went to the Boston Public Gardens. We sat on a bench after a day of wandering the Freedom Trail and every cemetery with skull and bones and dates hundreds of years old, and the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house and Faneuil Hall before coming to rest in front of the ducklings that Boston made way for in the famous children’s’ book, Make Way for Ducklings.

Little children were climbing and sitting and even kissing these adorable ducks and try as we did, it was impossible to get any good pictures of the brood with all the children swarming around.

Have you read Make Way for Ducklings? It is one of my all-time favorite children’s books and it was fun to see these sculptures at the Boston Public Gardens one crisp day in Autumn.

Cover of Robert McCloskey's book, Make Way for Ducklings.

Thanks, Katy, for giving me a reason to write about yet another children’s’ book.

We arrived in Boston the same day that Jennifer and Jason and his family were leaving Boston. Tom and I had a great time, but, it would have been fun to meet up with them and even more to see the ducklings with Jennifer, who I am sure would have been crawling on them as well.

Below is one of the statues we managed to capture without a captivated toddler on it.

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Quack, quack, quack

What a terrific day Tuesday was. One of those early spring days where you feel good to be outside, where the breeze is warmer, the sun seems just right in the sky,  and the world around seems a little happier.

I’ve told you about the pond down our road. I’m not sure if it really is a pond – or a swamp – and not sure what to call it, so, I call it a pond in a more natural sense (as opposed to the garden variety). It is home to cattails and scrub trees and, right now, it  is overflowing into the woods beyond and sneaking across the road. When it is frozen over, someone comes in, we assume from the county, and cuts the cattails down so kids can ice skate. There is another low spot deeper in the woods. Tom and Jennifer, and one of the grands went exploring one day and they all came home covered in mud, as excited as Lewis and Clark at having discovered another low spot. There is also a small, low spot a little further along the road.

Today, all three spots held auditions for the Cut Off Chorus!

As I approached the pond late in the afternoon, I could hear first the deep woods chorus, then the roadside one. The closer I got to pond, the quieter the chorus sang, until it stopped altogether. They sensed I was nearby – or were they just tired? I stood for several minutes, quietly clicking pictures,  until one long throaty, croak, then another hesitant answer, and soon they had all resumed singing. Hail, hail the gang’s all here!

Peeper's Pond

But wait! There’s more!

Soon, this tree will be covered with leaves and the pond water will have receded.

I didn’t go to the pond to hear the symphony, however. I went to see the mallards, who return each year like the swallows to Capistrano, and build a nest and swim and squat and quack and waddle. When I saw them from the car earlier, they were sunning at the edge of the road. They do this every year when the melting snow, then spring rains, forces the water over the pavement. It doesn’t last long, but, every time I see these early spring nesters sitting at the mucky edge of the road,  like lame ducks, I get all nervous and fret that they will be hit by a car. Folks in these parts slow down and are aware of these temporary tenants. Visitors,however, don’t always know the ducks rest dangerously close to the road, and, well, I worry.  So, I, too waddled , late on the sunny afternoon, down the road to check up on them.

Quack, quack, quack!

Someday soon, we will have to make way for this year’s ducklings!

Just to the left of the tree's reflection, these two lovers were sunning themselves.

"So much for that", quacked Himself. "Yes, dear, it is time to go shopping for dinner. Don't you just hate these paparazzi?", quacked Herself.

Three little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
“Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
But only two little ducks came back.

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Tiptoeing through the tulips

The daffodils are breaking through, with a few already sporting yellow caps here in our little neck of the woods. Some of them were here when we moved in. This year, there are dozens of them thanks to our friend Jerry. Jerry grows and divides daffodils and his bounty has multiplied substantially over the years. When at their peak, he has been known to take bouquets to area nursing homes and is generous with sprays of daffodils to friends. We gladly took some bulbs this fall. We won’t have any tulips because the you-know-what with springtime spots and autumn antlers eat all the tops off and the smaller critters eat the bulbs for lunch deep in the ground. Besides, tulips are hard in the best of conditions to keep from year-to-year. Jerry and Bev have had a similar deer problem – until Jerry started planting daffodil bulbs. Did you know that daffodil bulbs are the one plant that no animal will eat?

In-the-meantime, with the weather turning milder and sunny last week, I couldn’t resist plucking this bouquet of tulips from the grocery store and putting them in a vase on the library table near the desk. I can’t resist having a few flowers here and there in the house, even in the dead of winter. Especially in the dead of winter!   As it is not likely that I will get to the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands any time soon, why not enjoy a few inside?

Our garden club has had several speakers on tulips. The Keukenhof Gardens and other renowned tulip gardens are always mentioned. Our speaker a few weeks ago, Henrietta Tweedie, was one. Isn’t that a wonderful name for someone so knowledgeable about plants and paintings and such?  Henrietta Tweedie gave us a lively presentation on such things as the history of tulip bulbs, Tulipmania, how a virus actually causes the multi-colored swirl in some tulips, and how the tulip bulb kept many people from starving to death in the Netherlands during WWII.

There are plenty of books about tulips, and daffodils as well, to tide us over for a few more weeks. Then, the daffodil glade will be in season at the Morton Arboretum and hundreds of tulips will be blooming at the Chicago Botanical Gardens. I’m happy walking around the Oak Brook Shopping Center for their lush displays as well.

How about you? Where will you go tiptoe through the tulips and enjoy the daffodils?

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Don’t tell Tracey

With the weather starting to lean toward spring and the robins twittering away, our friends, the O’Mallards, back again for a season of swimming and sunning in the pond up the road and a mass of daffodils valiantly pushing through the soil, I was starting to feel a bubble of hope coming through.

Hope is good. It sustains us through trials and tribulations and gives us a handle to hang onto when traveling through rough times.

I was feeling hopeful on Saturday night as I looked around a gathering of folks at a book party for Tracey Bianchi. Tracey is, if you will remember the Green Mama blog of a few weeks ago, a newly minted author of a book. She is also a recently ordained minister. It was a very good month for Tracey and for her family and friends. We were glad to be a small part of it.

During a break in conversation, I managed to look around at the cozy crowd of 50 or so people holding china plates laden with desserts and sipping glasses of organic wine, their laughter lacing pleasant conversations. There were several of us of a “certain age” enjoying the celebration.  You know – the empty nesting crowd several decades into marriages, emerging into  grandparents and AARP, while still young enough to play and take trips and stay up past ten o’clock, but with a few extra laugh lines around our eyes. The rest of the crowd was a generation younger. They were guys and gals, smartly dressed and looking fit and healthy and trim and they were friends and relatives of Tracey and they were there filling the space with love and support.  I found myself smiling.

Actually, I was smiling most of the time. I know because my cheeks hurt and Tom said he knew it wasn’t time to go yet because every time he tried to find me he could see I was still smiling.

This was a different smile I was feeling, however. The smile started from deep in my heart and I felt it grow. It was the smile of hope. It was the realization that most of those in attendance were the next generation, taking up the mantle and paving the way for the generations to follow.

I watched them and as I watched and listened to the din of a noisy, happy room, I heard now and then “don’t tell Tracey“. I even said it myself,  “don’t tell Tracey“.

Don’t tell Tracey ” I used paper towels or forgot my cloth bag before buying groceries or let my car idle or bought something I really didn’t need. “Don’t tell Tracey“.

Tracey has raised the collective conscience of all those around her. Her urging and gentle prodding have started a little catch-phrase. “Don’t tell Tracey“. Her energetic writing on her green mama blog and her timely book and the word spreading as she challenges her generation of green mamas and papas and everyone else. A bit of that challenge will filter down to those of us who remember the long lines for gasoline and making our own Christmas gifts and riding our bicycles to the store for a few groceries. Reminders are good things – they keep us in balance.

What I felt and saw for a few candlelit hours on a blustery Saturday night in the middle of March was more than a glimmer of hope for the future. It was faith that good things could be done and a pleasant reminder that we all should try. Hope is good and watching this gathering of the next generation having fun, supporting a peer, and taking up the mantle of the future is a hopeful thing, indeed – and the gentle reminder, like Jiminy Cricket whispering in our ears, to recycle, reuse, purchase consciously, and be kind to our good earth.  A welcome reminder to be good stewards of all that we have.

Do tell Tracey.

http://www.peaceeducators.org/ PacketFall2009_UNConve...

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