The Summer Files: Day 61


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Our monsoons have gone into hiding. For anyone unfamiliar with this phenomenon, it’s the time of year when the western skies usually cry over us with mercy. Giant teardrops slice through the UV rays, cooling our skin from the constant high-temp bake.

How we miss our summer friend. Insidedom under the ceiling fan is interesting for only so long. How does one stay entertained within 1500 square feet?

The Son has acquired an addiction to Garfield, reading and rereading old Garfield books, telling anyone who listens how funny it is when Odie gets kicked off the table. We have20150526_112129 watched the same library DVD of Garfield’s holidays for the last four days. BTW, it’s Christmas on the farm again. It doesn’t seem to rain there either.

The Daughter has decided she’s a chef now, and will attempt to cook anything she sees on TV. A few mornings ago, I woke to a malodorous cloud of burned egg. “It’s French toast, Mommy. But I couldn’t remember anything but eggs and bread.” And how to take a skillet full of egg off the burner. Too hot to air out the house too. It was 1500 square feet of nasal misery—all day.

Evenings are nice though—at least up high like we are. The skies blow cool kisses—just enough to air out foul smells, and release us from our walled confinement.

But I miss the rain (and the ten drops we got this morning does not qualify as a monsoon), and hope to feel its mercy upon my face before summer ends. Just the smell of it reminds me of childhood days, when a friend and I would curl up inside his screened-in porch and watch the storms roll in with hands full of popcorn and plastic cups of Kool-Aid. Rain is a wonder, a blessing, and downright good entertainment for those who grew up with eyes fixed on the skies rather than on a screen.

May our floors soon be covered in muddy footprints. Blessings for your Monday.

The Summer Files: Day 54


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Our week of green grass and copious amounts of defrizzer has come to a close. Dipping our toes and hugs into the hospitality of the Deep South was just what we needed. The only thing I regret was the cold we brought back with us.

On the return flight home, the man next to me was every bit the gentleman. We discussed the book he was reading, our family reunions and our similar tastes in plane snacks. He offered to share his Cheezits and bag of chocolate-influenced candy; we laughed when I pulled out our own matching crackers and chocolate. When we ran out of conversation, he promptly fell asleep.

And then the southern-acquired cough kicked in. This was no ladies cough. It started

 Every occasion is appropriate for Dr. Pepper

Every occasion is appropriate for Dr. Pepper

with that dreaded tickle deep within my throat–the kind you know is going to last an embarrassing amount of minutes–and erupted into a volcanic spewing monster sort of thing. I tried stifling it in the crook of my arm, my hand, my sleeve. I tried coughing with a drawl in the hopes it would sound more civilized, but I was unsuccessful.

The gentleman next to me, awake now, turned his head away, ever so slightly. His mouth closed, nostrils flared. Obviously, he was trying not to breathe my air.

Every now and then, he turned his eyes toward me in sympathy, but kept his nose and mouth in the cough-free zone.

When my cough finally began its descent toward manageable, he inclined his head toward me, ever so slightly, and asked: “You’re not choking, are you?”

I assured him it was from allergies, which at the time I thought it was. But when my kids started showing symptoms a few days later, I thought of our friend from the plane, hoping he managed to avoid my non-drawl, unladylike, monster-cold. If not, he had plenty of pages from Clan of the Cave Bear to keep him occupied for any sort of cough that may come his way. Such is the curse of airplanes and the blessings of books.

How is your summer winding down? Blessings for your week.

The Summer Files: Day 40


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Soon, we’ll be headed for the Deep South where a beautiful lake, a storybook house, and a family with the drawl await us. In previous years, due to large class sizes and having to do that thing called “taking turns,” The Children have been slow to pick up the art of swimming. Of course, they have a pale-as-the-moon mother who has been instructed by her Dr. to stay out of the sun, and wear long sleeves and…you know…stay pale to avoid further bouts of skin cancer.

But the Deep South includes a lake, so I must charge into the UV rays and teach boat-1480396_1920them how to make friends with the water.

I don’t do “traditional” well, which is probably why, when teaching The Children swim techniques, people stare. Whatever. I call my methods “unique”, and in three weeks, we’ve made more swimming progress than two years of formal swim lessons. The daughter is coming along quite nicely. She now doggie paddles, jumps into the not-quite-deep end of the pool, and rides the pool noodle like a western pool-swimming uncowgirl should.

I’m afraid I’ve developed the forbidden tan on my arms and shoulders. Oops. But my legs that stay submerged in the hobbit end of the pool are still nice and…bright.

The Son is fearful of the water, but we had a breakthrough last week and he will now bravely kick around on things that float and bellow noises born of indigestion. Boys.

In a week, as long as the laptop survives the plane, the rental car, and the reformatting of accents, I will report our southern adventure.

Maybe say a prayer or two, for the skin, the rookie swimmers and the parents who willflyonaplanewithakidafflictedwithirratablebowelandloudnoiseissues. Amen.

The Summer Files: Day 33


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Despite the opinions of some, I do not think watching TV is equivalent to worshiping Satan. In fact, watching shows or movies is common among writers, as we can learn many techniques to capture a reader’s interest. Considering we now have attention spans equivalent to goldfish, waxing on in Dicken’s style doesn’t do it for today’s reader. The awesome must come right away, so we study the screen.

TV time also gives a nice break for us full-time moms (who also work Out There) needing an hour of sanity. Okay, more than one hour would be nice, but I try to be realistic.

Having said that, The Children take on symptoms of Zombiism when getting too much screen time. Their faces fall slack, drool leaks from the corners of their mouths, and when I call their names, they “can’t hear me.”

Now if you live in Arizona, stepping outside after 9am in the summer is risky—the sun has a flare gun, did you know that? It targets many of us in the southwest, aiming at the palest ones first. Sometimes I can hear my skin sizzle. You might even burst into flame, so most of our exercise is done in the early morning and evening.

That means we use our imaginations (not ruined by the so-called evil TV) forhouse those lengthy in-between hours. The Children are coming along with the City of Light. We’ll be finished soon; the only thing we haven’t figured out is where to put it. There are blessings to being less-than-organized; I don’t worry about the details, and it all comes together anyway (I can hear your criticism, structure-experts. Oh, but I am free, free, FREE!).

I didn’t expect to be visited by Thor, Captain America and Iron Man this week, but it was a pleasant surprise. I requested they bring Wonder Woman next time. Why do the female Superheroes always come later?


Anyway, half of these projects were inspired by scenes from the you-know-what, and for that I’m very thankful. Enjoy your TV week.

The Summer Files: Day 19


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I woke up to my daily devotional telling me to expect trouble.
The Canine made a run for it a few hours later. I was vacuuming the twenty pounds of cracker crumbs and playground sand from the SUV when The Daughter appeared at my side, princess skirt ripped straight down the center, feet bare and face streaked with dirt.

The Canine had escaped on her watch. Devastation poured down her cheeks as the story rushed out about running through neighbors’ yards, calling and calling The Canine to no avail while I vacuumed, oblivious to my daughter’s voice.
Guilt plunged into me like a steak knife.
“I prayed so hard, Mommy, but she wouldn’t come.”
The Son and I jumped in the car while The Daughter stayed in case a neighbor brought The Canine home.

We sent up a chorus of silent prayers–each Child expressing to me how hard they prayed–and called The Canine’s name through the windows. No one had seen her, not the neighbor handyman, nor the neighbor girls who doled sympathy like hot fudge on a Sundae.
When we swung home for an update, there was The Daughter, all smiles and peace in the driveway. “She just came home.”
And then I remembered a request I had recently sent upstairs.
Please remind The Children of your existence.

Upstairs sends a note: The Creator knows how to speak Kid.
Happy Monday.

The Summer Files: Day 12


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My ears have been ringing for 12 straight days. At first, I though it was sugar-induced pandemonium that caused The Children to jack the noise level up to Rock Concert. Then I thought maybe, just maybe, the sweet release of homework into the void of bye-bye-for-now caused this uncontained clamor.13267743_1309091479118199_2886125102144717313_n

The noise level has been so high that the sound waves knocked birds from the sky. Wings. Feathers. Squawking. I also suspect The Canine.

I got so tired of using the word noise when people asked what my kids summer plans included that I consulted my thesaurus for more interesting options.
Clamor, din, babel.


But when Memorial Day arrived, I realized the noise (although unhealthy for ear drums and sane minds) was distracting me from the root of it all. Really, the noise erupting from my children is not so much commotion, racket, or an uproar, but an expression of freedom.

Freedom to play, freedom to laugh at funny faces, cats, and words that rhyme with poop. Freedom to express opinions, LOUDLY, and to not recite times tables for the whole summer. Freedom to say God’s name and to be able to step outside in relative safety.

So I’m okay with that. (Except the sibling fights, that’s just pure foofaraw).

I may make a little noise myself today.

Many thanks to our veterans who paved the way for joyful noises.

The Summer Files: Day 5


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It hasn’t yet been a week and The Son has discovered that sweat makes a good hair gel. Blond hair on end, unyielding energy pumping through his body, he goes, and goes, and goes, despite the powerful Az sun.
He’s managed to climb the entire height of the stucco column on the patio. I’m not sure if it’s the steroids he’s on for an irritable bowel, or if it’s the elation of summer freedom. I may never know.

The daughter approaches her vacation with a more subtle approach. At 7:30am, I rise late due to my nighttime Away job, and find the eight-year-old preparing a pot

The Polar Express, Az. style

The Polar Express, Az. style

of oatmeal for me. She knows I like it with honey, and dutifully scrapes the sugared stuff from the jug and heats it up so it pours smoothly into my bowl. Later on, she unearths my pointe shoes and wears them around the house like princess slippers.

After walking The Canine, I take them to the park where they bike circles around me. Hmm. Shortly after, I sit them down in front of the Goosebumps movie, starring Jack Back. Concerned at first that it might scare them despite the PG rating, I’m pleasantly surprised when they laugh through most of the film. Who knew evil garden gnomes weren’t scary?

While tending to my At-Home job—writing my newest book in The City of Light series–I decide it’s time for The Children to make their own City of Light.
We cut. We trim and paste. It’s still in progress, but I think this will be end up being a project to remember.


So far, I find myself tolerating enjoying Summer. Until next week.

A Single Beautiful Thing


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There was a man in my college photography class who taught us how to capture a beautiful shot from anywhere. “Zoom in,” he said, “It’s about focus.” When he propped his photo up on our critique board, I saw a shadowed arch, eye-catching in its imperfection flowing through a gray sea. I didn’t think crack in a sidewalk until he told us that’s what it was.

I’m not sure what got me thinking about this seventeen-year-old memory; maybe some of you can relate, but when you become a parent, focusing on any single20160516_091434 thing becomes folklore. A crack in the sidewalk becomes a collection point for Cheerios overflowing beyond the crevice— milk and all— onto my freshly mopped floor.

Maybe it’s my son with the indeterminate illness, and my friend with the cancer diagnosis. The hard things like to come at once, so how do we manage to focus on a single beautiful thing amidst cold, hard reality?

If Peter had kept his eyes on Jesus, his feet would not have slipped through the water. He saw the storm, the waves–he even suspected Jesus was a ghost. But the few moments he focused on the Lord, he got his miracle—one that’s been documented to help us through every one of our hard seasons. An old reminder of what could be.

Jesus traveled with a team—I’m thinking of all of you right now. Let’s climb inside this boat together and fix our eyes on our King.


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