Category Archives: family

I throw snowballs and eat guavas.

I’m home again! I was so busy the last week of my stay with Soldier and Joy’s family, I didn’t finish my story of the Most Fun Day in Colorado: It was the snowy weather I’d mentioned was on the forecast, and I didn’t expect the quantity of snow that fell in the night. In the morning before the children were up I went out and took some pictures of the wonderland.

When the boys got on their unfamiliar jackets, snow boots and gloves, they began their happy discoveries. Brodie is only 2 1/2 and he was cautious. His brothers were kind and patient introducing them to the white stuff that they had just begun to explore themselves.

I went out to play with them, and it was such a joy. I also had my waterproof boots, and my down jacket. My gloves seemed to be waterproof. I showed them how to make snowballs and gave them permission to throw them at me! That they loved most to do, all three of the little cubs whom I’d been telling for two weeks that I so appreciated their affection, but they should not show it by pushing, pinching, or whacking Grandma as they passed by (their natural way with each other). Their parents and I tried to teach them to be gentle. Suddenly it was okay to pelt me with balls of cold fluff. We laughed and ran around and eventually built a snowman, and when I went indoors the older boys made a snow house.

A few of us went on another walk in Fox Run Regional Park and came across two teepees made of logs. Another group drove all the way to Boulder to the Celestial Seasonings factory and headquarters but that outing didn’t turn out quite as expected and I only got one picture, of the little room modeled after the Sleepytime tea box, featuring two of the boys instead of the sleepy bear.

One of the things I loved about being in Colorado Springs was attending Sts. Constantine and Helen/Holy Theophany Church. It felt a lot like home. The walls are crowded with icon murals, making it ideal for walking around and greeting all the many saints who are surrounding the worshipers like a cloud of witnesses. The first week I attended I went back into the building after the agape meal to take pictures. I look forward to visiting again whenever I travel to see my family who are hoping to settle there for a good while, God willing.

Today I flew home. It is such a short “hop” compared to what I’ve been doing the last many years; I arrived at midday, when the house was cold and the garden warm. I’d been thinking of my garden the last three weeks, when checking the weather report, and even into November there have been days over 80 degrees. I wondered if the pineapple guavas might even ripen this year — and they did!! At least, ten of them had doubled in size since I left, and dropped on the ground, and I ate one. It was ripe indeed, and scrumptious.

Lots of the dwarf pomegranate fruits have grown to be larger and redder, but still their dwarfish selves. The figs have continued to ripen, and olives to get color. The sunflowers finished drying up, but the irises and abutilon have not slowed down one bit! I turned on the fountain and marveled at my space. I am as happy as a hummingbird whose feeder has just been filled to the brim.

Rabbitbrush and butterscotch.

Last week was full of rocks and trees and even flowers. Joy and I took the children to Garden of the Gods, where red sandstone in ragged forms towers above the walking paths. Even the littlest guy walked more than two miles among the juniper and mountain mahogany, and wildflowers mostly gone to seed. The Gambel oaks, also known as Rocky Mountain white oak or Colorado scrub oak, had probably displayed more varied shades of orange and yellow a few weeks ago, but when we encountered them the leaves had aged to a rich, mellow gold.

We saw the rabbitbrush in many forms and places, but didn’t know what it was until just before we left the park and saw its picture in the visitor center. I have known of rabbitbrush for decades and I hope that after this extended encounter I will not forget it so easily. We saw its flower, two sorts of galls on the plants, and noticed its needly leaves and how they are softer than conifer needles. One of the galls is cottony gall; the other I haven’t been able to identify.

The very next day the whole family drove up to Woodland Park; it’s less than an hour to this town that lies at 8500 feet. We walked along Lovell Gulch Trail, among several species of conifers and groves of aspens. We suspected they were aspens, but we knew that birch have similar bark, so when we got home I googled around and it became clear that yes, what we saw were aspens, so plentiful in the Rockies and in dry places high up, while birches like floodplains and shade. And the few leaves that we saw  — most had fallen after turning bright yellow — matched the pictures of aspen. I only saw one bright leaf, of another species.

We admired the bark of other trees, especially one that had lots of texture, and fresh sap flowing. Soldier had a sudden thought, came close to get a whiff, and concluded, “Oh, it must be a Jeffrey pine — they smell like butterscotch.” Indeed. Oh, that was delicious! I made up a mnemonic story for myself about a boy named Jeffrey who was walking down the trail and discovered a butterscotch drop on a tree trunk.

The view of the mountains is striking from there, a different perspective from our daily one. We have seen Pikes Peak from several angles now, and don’t know the names of any of the other peaks visible from here. Soldier just read that Colorado has more than 50 peaks over 14,000 feet. Colder temperatures are coming this week, and yes, snow is on the forecast, too. So our views will grow even more spectacular.

The beauty of souls and red rock.

Colorado Springs – I am still here with Soldier and Joy’s family, but having a quiet and slow morning, as Joy has taken the children to visit an old friend she ran into at church. Today is cold again, after a week of warm and sunny weather, and the winter season will settle in before the end of the month with freezing temps every night. The town lies at 6300 ft. elevation, with Pikes Peak in view, so one would expect a mountainous feel to the air and the seasons.

I’m a little homesick for my usual mild climate and the abundance of beautiful plants all year long. This Airbnb house is in a neighborhood that appears a little drab to me. Is the relative dryness of the region the region the reason that the leaves on the trees don’t turn beautiful colors, but merely shrivel and lose their color before falling? Out the window we see a broad and flat expanse of dirt and dry weeds between 40-yr-old housing tracts, where it seems more houses are now going to be built, so if you are a little boy who likes to identify excavators and cement mixers you will enjoy that view. I tire of it and lift my eyes just a bit to the large sky, and one morning, there was a sunrise palette.

All the males and I went on an outing to Manitou Springs on the weekend, where more than a hundred years ago bricks from ancient Anasazi ruins in the Four Corners area of the Southwest were used to build a full-size replica of cliff dwellings. It was fun for the boys to walk through the passageways and explore rooms cut into the rock, and there was even a small arrangement of native plants by way of a botanical garden for me to investigate while they went through the dwellings a second and third time. I love that red rock!

The natural beauty I have most appreciated has not been of the broad landscape, but what I’ve found close up, like the above, and the ubiquitous junipers and blue spruce that will stay fresh and green all winter, and which are a  clean contrast to the nearly aways blue sky. The town is known for the way the sun shines all or part of the vast majority of days. Yesterday I had the boys to myself for a few hours and they ran outside on the green grass; we scooped up leaves with a snow shovel and I taught them to run and jump in our little pile. The leaves smelled sooo good.

The most sublime images of creation I encounter day by day are the humans, with their souls that glow with the life God gave them, and who have the potential to be changed into His likeness as they follow the desires of their deepest longings. I am in awe of the parents’ conscientious care of the children, the thousand responsive decisions they must make every day about how to answer questions, how to deal with squabbles and tantrums and meltdowns — after they have already made many intentional and pro-active planning decisions.

I know, I also used to do that same job day after day, and I wonder at the person I was! It’s all of God’s grace, that we have the strength to do it again the next morning, and that the children grow up at least somewhat prepared to live without the constant supervision and training that they need early on. If they can learn to return to God time after time after time, to receive forgiveness and everything else they need, that will be the best thing.

The singing life with boys.

I landed in Colorado with Soldier’s family four days ago. The airport and airplane were fun for me and the boys because it was their first experience, and because it was a short trip, to and from smaller airports and on Southwest Airlines which seemed to me much more easygoing and helpful than my usual United travel.

We have been in this Airbnb house in Colorado Springs for four nights. It has plenty of room for three wild Indians (as my mother’s generation would have called them, but I try not to) to race up and down stairs and roughhouse, yelling, shouting, and laughing. If I can get them to sing with me it’s sometimes possible to channel this exuberance into plain laughing, which carries less risk of maiming. 

Sing Through the Seasons from the Plough Publishing House has been for our family a wealth of children’s songs that are joyful music for all ages. I have been singing many of the original 99 songs of the first edition for over 40 years, but I’ve never introduced so many in as short a span as during this last week.

I found a copy of the later edition I had bought used, and brought it along in my suitcase, and the three brothers and I have sat on the couch for long periods singing, “Nibble, Nibble,” “Where Are the Froggies When the North Wind Blows,” and many other favorites. “Trot Along, My Little Pony” by Marlys Swinger was a lullaby I used to sing to the babies, leaning over their cribs to pat them to sleep. Even 2-yr-old Brodie sings in his husky voice with “Nibble, Nibble,” and anticipates the ending when he can chime in with, “And the rabbit in my heart is you!”

Last night while the boys were waiting for dinner I taught them “Three Little Puffins.” They giggled through the song at the idea of puffin birds stuffin’ themselves with muffins, but the giggles turned to hilarity when I started calling them my own Three Little Puffins.

We’ve been on a walk around Palmer Lake just to the north of us in the community with the same name. A few bits of snow were still on the ground from Sunday, the day we arrived right after a snowfall, and I wished I had brought my wool scarf against the wind. We “did school” the very first morning here, because their mother Joy is incredibly organized, and have watched videos on Grandma’s laptop about Deep Sea Fishes, Dragonflies, and How Deep Can We Dig Toward the Center of the Earth?

At the closest public library, in Monument, Joy was able to get a library card, and we brought home lots of books. Not only that, but behind the library is a lake or pond where ducks swim, and the librarians give free cups of cracked corn for feeding the ducks.

At this house there are toys and games; Liam found a turntable Scrabble board and tiles, and wanted me to play with him. I would rather play Bananagrams, but most of his family’s belongings are in storage, so we don’t have that game here. Yesterday he and I drove to Walmart to pick up a few things, including Bananagrams, but the store had just stopped carrying it. I told the salesperson, “I bet Target has it!” We substituted a bunch of bananas, and a new Scrabble game that had all its parts. Liam took to this more complicated word game with enthusiasm. We love words!

I am nearly hoarse from all the singing and reading, but still want to do more, and usually at least one of my “puffins” is more than willing. This evening while dinner was cooking I read to dear Brodie four of his favorite books, including What Do You Hear, Angel?, by Elizabeth Crispina Johnson. It has plenty of repetition to please the child’s ear, but the message conveyed is a fundamental truth of the cosmos that is lifelong sustenance: Things seen and unseen are singing the same song. The illustrations by Masha Lobastov confirm that idea with images of a happy child engaging with, you might say, earthly and heavenly messengers.

That’s what we are living every day.