I feel like it would be doing a disservice to my blog—or at least the archives of 2014—if I didn’t properly light my fall on fire in a post this year. Wouldn’t want those other years to feel superior or anything, so let it be said that the fall freak flag has been raised, clusters of shellacked gourds line the counters, “Warm Tobacco Pipe” candles flicker in the living room, and just yesterday I took the first Florida fall excursion. We don’t have apple orchards or pumpkin patches or streets lined with golden maples, but I’ll be damned we have a Homegoods that sells faux birch bark candles and fuzzy owl knickknacks and hand towels emblazoned with scarlet leaves. And yesterday, I pushed my cart between those aisles of autumn splendor just as I might, say, push a stroller down an acorn-scattered path, and I breathed in the air conditioning like it was an apple-scented breeze. “Hail to Fall!” I shouted as I swung from the rug racks and climbed to the peak of a toss pillow pile, raising a clearance cornucopia above my head as the store’s inhabitants repeated the fall chant and then joined me in the candle section for a synchronized flash mob cart dance to the tune of John Coltrane’s “Autumn Serenade.” It was beautiful, I tell you. And festive. And all in my imagination. But someday, if the world keeps on the upturned path (we’re headed toward better, right?), these imaginative dreams will happen all the time.
So there. Fall has been recognized for 2014.
Every so often, I get an e-mail or comment from—well, let’s just call them blog fans—who, after reading some sort of “I miss something about the Midwest” rambling of mine, string together the most colorful of words in the English language to say something like, “Why do you hate Florida so much, you ungrateful b@*#!?” (that’s actually a real e-mail). Which always gives me a little chuckle, first because cussing can be really funny—especially when it’s typed in ALL CAPS and signed by anonymous screen names, but also because I find it humorous that these insightful people have managed to look past the fact that loving something—like, say, motherhood—while yet professing disappointment for its shadows—like, say, fits or hard days or seeing your children struggle—doesn’t so much mean that you hate that thing but rather that your love for it is well-seasoned with the reality that the best things in life come with a flipside. We say howdy to the flipsides in life, and usually that acknowledgment is enough to keep them from getting to us. If we didn’t acknowledge them, they might get mad and stick around until we did.
But really. Clearly, we hate Florida so much that we drag our kids to the beach and take pictures of the repulsive landscape.
This blue sky actually pisses me off.
To love where you live or what you do for a living or the people you spend your life with doesn’t mean you have to like everything about them. It just means that you see through the parts that you don’t love and know that there’s more than enough good to make up for them. That goes for states and jobs and parents and kids and husbands and wives and friends.
This scene? We’re good, Florida. We’re good.
A little Enjoying post early this week as Wednesday starts Down syndrome awareness month, and we’ll kick it off right.
Finding frogs after the rain.
And when we catch one, it always leads to us telling Lainey the story again about the time a frog jumped on her face when she was little, and how she lost her mind.
The Boxcar Children.
Well maybe not a boxcar, but still–a box. The best toy money can’t buy. Brett bragged all night about how he rigged up a real doorknob and how the window he cut was way cooler than mine because his opens and shuts.
Alright, I’ll give him the window. But the doorknob fell off this morning, thank you very much.
One of my favorite things to do with her–draw side-by-side. I help her draw faces because she’s “not really good at eyes, Mom,” and she picks out all the colors for my pictures because choosing colors for anything–bridal bouquets, nursery walls, polka dot shirts on rough sketches of girls in a notebook–is one of the great perks in life, and I’ll let her have the pleasure. I love to watch how serious she gets over a Pacific Blue vs. Caribbean Green decision. I’m hoping that when hard things come our way, hitting the table with a sketch book, drawing manual and a pile of colored pencils is always a way out–or at least closer to each other.
She’s breaking through her timidness for a lot of things in life right now. Scooching closer to centipedes on the ground to get a good look at their tiny legs. Joining crowds of friends without huddling so close to me. Climbing the big slide at the park and sailing down without a spotter. Stretching her hand out to hold a seastar–intrigued, not frightened, by the wiggly feet that tickle her palm. And just when I’m about to jump to some sentimental and super celebratory Down syndrome achievement proclamation, I remember that this is life and we are all the same. Constantly breaking through our timidness of the world, pulling back when we need more time, and reemerging when we feel safe and curious and brave. I see myself in her all the time.
But I’m still sentimental and super celebratory. So yay, Nella! Cartwheel. High five. Knuckles.
I never played with Barbies growing up, and Lainey didn’t seem interested in anything but baby dolls. Though I never officially opposed them, maybe I got a little uppity about our Barbielessness and made it our thing. I mean–their unrealistic body proportions, their plasticness, whatever. I went total elitist with it, and I admit it. Thing is, Nella has found the few forlorn Barbies that were passed down to us and, despite their boob-to-waist ratio and dreamhouse obsessions, she looked past all that to see dolls that needed love. Nella is to Barbie as Jesus was to Zaccheus. (That was just to meet my monthly Bible-trivia-from-the-past quota, a little thing I have goin’ with myself to prove I still got it.)
Sometimes we hear her in her room,excitedly talking, voice raising, little phrases rolling off her tongue with such inflection: Oh, Okay! Hi! Thank you! Here it is! Brett’s usually first to the scene, and he whispers for me to come quick. And as we peek around the door frame, careful so she doesn’t see us, we find her with the Barbies. Two of them held up, one in each hand, to face each other. She swings their hair and makes them bob back and forth when she talks for them. She gives them a voice when they can’t speak for themselves. Which is exactly what we try to do for her.
So, Barbies? Bring ’em on. We took her to get a new one this weekend. Kid you not, she named the newest member Poop. Poop has the cutest polka-dot skinny jeans. Just sayin’.
My Happy Place.
This scene. Restores, renews, straightens out and brings all the “I don’t knows” right home. This I know. This is home, peace, comfort and motivation all in one.
This is pretty cute too.
A Giving Opportunity for You
There are two days left to September, and though I joke about how fulfilling a good cup of cider or fall craft can be, I can’t think of a more meaningful way to close out this month than to help give families the basic human rights so many of us enjoy every day, without thought–safety and the freedom from violence. We’re talking 6-year-olds walking to school without being hurt. I’ve written about International Justice Mission and had a backstage pass to the incredible work they’re doing around the world when we visited their Rwanda field office in July. We met Jamie and heard her story and saw firsthand how the work of IJM saved her life. IJM is doing good, important work. They’re rescuing children and families who are being abused and enslaved, they’re enforcing justice and they’re teaching communities around the globe how to sustain these systems of justice on their own. We signed up to be Freedom Partners in July–a small $24/month donation that helps IJM continue their work in rescuing victims of violence across the globe–and we continue to follow the work of IJM, getting updates of rescues and justice victories we’re helping to support every week. Generous IJM donors have committed to doubling your monthly giving all year long when you sign up to become an IJM Freedom Partner in September. Your bill from one night out at a restaurant could make a double impact on protecting the poor if you sign up today.
And on that note, goodnight. Happy almost October. You know what that means? The last quarter. Live it up, bring it home…from whatever state you’re loving.