Friday, May 31, 2013

On the Nightstand and the iPod

At any given moment, you will find a book (okay, right now there are probably eight books) on my nightstand and you will also find a book on my iPod.  I love being challenged in my thinking.  I love a good story.  And I just love words, plain and simple.  

Sitting on my nightstand right now is a novel called The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  I just finished it but it makes me smile when I look at it because it was such a great story, so I don't really want to take it back to the library yet.

This novel really moved me.  Each flower has a distinct meaning and message, whether positive or negative.  Once upon a time, the language of flowers was more commonly known of and more commonly used.  The author cites old flower dictionaries and has her own in the back of the book.  This novel explores the meaning of flowers and relates their meaning(s) to the events that take place in the novel.  It is narrated by someone who has aged out of a group home and is seeking to find healing and forgiveness.  It is a book about emptiness, human relationships, and hope for the future.  It also raises questions about someone with loveless past being able to heal and move forward.

I don't think I will look at flowers the same ever again. There is something deeper and more mysterious about them now and it intrigues me.  I loved this book!  

After taking a break from the classics after Carson was born (okay, I took a break from a lot of things after he was born), I started back by loading The Return of the Native on my iPod.  The author, Thomas Hardy, is apparently known as a landscape writer.  Just as there are landscape paintings, there is landscape literature.  He writes evocative descriptions about the estate and surrounding land in his novel.  I have to say I had a hard time getting into this one at first but now that I am in the throes of it, I'm hooked.  

When Kevin asked me what this book is about, I summarized it for him.  We both remarked that a lot of classic literature--or at least the stuff I've been reading in the past months--centers on a heroine who is discontent in her marriage and has an affair!  And these books are written by MEN. Seriously.  Of the last four classic books I've read, three have been about adulterous women (Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, and now The Return of the Native).  I think I'm ready for a new genre, people!! I'm reading these books in chronological order.  What does it say about the time period they were written in, I wonder?  The authors are from France, Russia, and England, respectively.  Hmmmm.  I will have to think on this some more ... 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Carson sat in his Bumbo seat and watched while I turned over and raked a small patch of dirt behind our house.  This section of ground was chosen because it gets lots of sun and also because I can't see it from any of the windows in my house.  If I could see the flowers from, say, my living room window, I wouldn't want to pick them and bring them inside.  No.  These flowers are meant to be paired with a vase and placed on the counter top.  I can't wait!

As I slowly dropped little zinnia seeds into the earth, I was reminded that last year, and the year before, I wanted to plant zinnias but wasn't able to do it.  There just wasn't enough time or energy, despite all my desire.   

So it was with a light heart that I realized that I'm at a place now where I can plant zinnias.  

As I pinched more seeds from the envelope, I determined that when the zinnias are in bloom and I pick them for my table, I will also pick a vase for a mom who is perhaps in the same place I have been these last two years: wishing and hopeful, but with all her time and energy already mortgaged out for other necessary tasks.  

Planting zinnias also reminded me of Sally Clarkson's No More Desperate Moms Resolution.  Hopefully the latter of the two resolutions is something I can remember as I move beyond the current season of life, to keep on encouraging people who are still in the middle of it, with zinnias or otherwise.  

Today I enjoyed the planting, the time with my little son, the sunshine on my back, the dirt between my fingers, and a little more room in my life to breathe!

Now I just hope I can keep up with the watering and weeding.  (Or get my kids to do it!)  Then things will really be golden, right?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Road Trip to Branson

Several years ago we drove to a beach house in North Carolina and, at the end of the road trip, we wanted to keel over and die.  Meredith was three and Clara was 14 months and it was insane.  We constantly were handing them toys and trying to entertain them in the car.  It was exhausting.  This time, on a road trip to Branson to meet up with my parents for a mini-vacation, the kids were such troupers!  We turned on an audio book and handed a doll to Sophia and they never complained once.  Sophia is the best three year old traveler in the world.  Carson did great and only cried about getting in his car seat toward the very end of the trip.  

On road trips, business for daddy doesn't always stop.  We left our house at 4:00 a.m. and planned a long stop at 10:00 a.m. so Kevin could make a telephonic court appearance.  So, here are Clara and Carson waiting patiently, so Kevin could have complete silence in the car. You gotta love these modern times. 

We were thrilled to see my parents, who live so very far away.  We miss them lots.  It's wonderful that the kids feel so close to their maternal grandparents, and talk about them often, despite the distance.  But visiting in person is the best.  My dad treated us to the "Joseph" production at Sight and Sound theater.  It was pretty awesome.  I was impressed by the dream scenes and the production's display of the grandeur of Egypt.  The voice talent was also incredible.

The girls' great-grandpa, whom I hear reads this blog sometimes ("Hi, grandpa!"), gave the kids each $10.  Since I am always telling them, "No, you can't have that today," they were thrilled.  They felt like they were millionaires.  

We also went to Silver Dollar City, where there was something fun for everyone.  

This was the first time Sophia remembers going to a theme park and she especially loved the rides. Here is my dad crammed into the little elephant ride with her.  Sophia always tells us, "I love baby animals," and she especially loves baby elephants, so this was a dream come true for her.  

My youngest sister, Melissa, was there too, and also my grandma who lives in southwest Missouri.  Kevin, Melissa and I took off for the afternoon to go ride all the big rides.  It was so fun to be carefree and ride roller coasters for an afternoon, let me tell ya.  If you want anything to snap you out of your stay-at-home mom life, where you take four little kids with you everywhere you go (nothing is fast and quick and spontaneous), roller-coaster hopping with two other big people is a pretty good solution.  The BEST and most crazy roller coaster was a new wooden coaster called the Outlaw Run.  CRAZY TIMES.  Even Kevin screamed the whole way.  I started screaming and I couldn't stop screaming.  Then at the end I started laughing and I couldn't stop laughing for like five minutes.  There was one point in the ride where we started dropping and then it felt like we were going down at an inverted diagonal, and then we were spun into what seemed like a jillion cork screws. Crazy, crazy. Here we are.  We survived!

Of course, kids rides are fun too.  We like it all.

On Sunday after visiting a cowboy church (yes, can you believe we did that?), we went for a nature walk at a local dam and then to a fish hatchery nearby.  I really had no idea how fish hatcheries work and it was interesting to learn.  

The kids thought it was great fun to feed the fish!

Here we are, putzing around Branson, after eating at a diner where the servers would periodically burst out in song.  Someone said that Branson is like a Christian Las Vegas.  That pretty much sums it up perfectly. 

By the end of the trip, Carson was pretty sleep deprived.  He is such an easy baby right now.  Clara propped him up on the hotel bed and he put himself to sleep.  

The view of the Ozarks from the hotel porch was gorgeous.  It was fun to eat breakfast out there.  We also enjoyed the dessert bar every night! 

Grandpa and Grandma Williams with baby Carson.

Clara spent some of her money from great-grandpa at Cracker Barrel.  We are big Cracker Barrel people, especially on road trips.  

Taking this little spring trip was just what we needed.  We really needed the break!  It was good to get away, see my family, and have some fun with the kids!   

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Purple Cookies

In a recent post I mentioned quality time.  Clara and I are just alike in this area.  She loves nothing more than when I give her my undivided attention.

The other day Clara asked me if I would play a game with her.  I told her, trying to suppress thoughts of everything else I needed to do, “Sure. How about UNO?”

“Yes!  I love UNO!”

Ten seconds later she asked if we could also have a special dessert after dinner.

“Well, it’s already 5:00 p.m.,” I said. “I don’t know if we have time for UNO and making a dessert.  Which one do you want to do?”

It was a no-brainer.  I don’t even know why I asked.  Clara would rather have sugar than air to breathe.  

“Mom, have you ever dyed chocolate chip cookes?,” she asked.

“Why, no.  I haven’t.  But there’s always a first time for everything.”

Purple was her color of choice.  Sprinkles were added for additional flair.  This experience brought her mounds of happiness and delight.

Apparently showing love is sometimes just a matter of dyeing chocolate chip cookies purple.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Time, Not Stuff

Please don’t get me a Mother’s Day gift. 

Yes, I mean it.  Seriously.

Kevin and I just had this conversation last night.  I knew he would have to work the Saturday morning before Mother’s Day—thus is the life of a person with a very deadline oriented job—and I really didn’t want him spending all afternoon away from me, too, looking for a gift. 

“Please don’t go buy me something I probably don’t need and probably don’t want.  Just come home and hang out with me.” 

Actually, I asked him to help me pick up the house because we are hosting Mother’s Day, with our immediate family and another family whose mom is here from out of town. 

The best way you can love me, honey, is to VACUUM.

I think there is something to the five love languages theory.  Although the example of vacuuming would be an act of service, what I really love is spending time with the people I love, especially if it means experiencing something new with them.

I don’t want more stuff.  I like clean lines and I hate clutter and if I really need something I can probably just go buy it myself.  What I really value is experiences.  Experiences are way more important to me than things.  Time is valuable, and scarce, and so when someone shares it with me, that really speaks to me. 

If you insist on giving me something, then what I would really like is a note or a homemade card from the kids.  Homemade cards are the best. 

So, hang out with me.  Go on random adventures with me.  It can be a small thing or a big thing [someday I want to ride a hot air balloon, by the way].  Let’s experience life together.  

A Prize that Counts

I sat on the edge of my seat at Meredith’s end-of-year recitation program yesterday.  The speaker was about to announce the winners of the cursive penmanship contest.

Meredith wanted to win so badly.  One boy and one girl would be chosen from each class in the lower school.  She had worked painstakingly to make sure all her cursive letters touched all the proper lines on the paper and had all the right slants.  After her work was complete, she walked around the room and carefully scrutinized all the other kids’ handwriting.  Later she told me, “I think I’m going to win!”  She also told me which boy in her class she thought would win. 

I told her that I was proud of her, regardless of what happened, because she had worked so hard all year long and had learned so much.  I was hoping she wouldn't be crushed but knew this might be the life lesson she needed to learn. 

“By the way, what do you get if you win?” I asked.

“I get a ribbon.  I have never gotten a ribbon before.  Well, we got one in gymnastics but that didn't count because EVERYONE got one.”  Kids are smarter than we give them credit for.

The speaker at the program said, “And for the second grade class, the winner is …. Meredith Koons.” 

She beamed out at the crowd, with her little side pony tail bouncing as she walked up the stage to receive her prize.

And, lo and behold, the boy she predicted would win, also won.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up with helping our kids overcome their academic weaknesses.  But, as I clapped loudly for her, it was good to help Meredith celebrate her strength. She has an eye for the beautiful.  She is a good artist.  She is a perfectionist and she loves copying things.    

It has been a pleasure to see Meredith flourish at the Highlands Latin School.  She is exactly where she needs to be.

And my kindergartner, my sweet Clara, has been home with me this year.  She has also been exactly where she needed to be.  Clara has come a long way as well and it has been so rewarding to see her grow in every way. 

I am thankful that God guides us in all these things.  Sometimes we don’t know what the right course is, but I know He always helps to direct us when we seek Him.  Parenting choices can be difficult.  And I’m sure we are not out of the woods yet!

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You live, you learn

Imagine me at the kitchen sink, washing cilantro, when daughter "A" bursts into the room full of ardor and excitement.  Her dreams have come true. Finally, the birthday party that her friend has talked about for months, the one with the Panda Bear theme, and the pizza, and the games, and best of all the slumber party element, has come to fruition.  An invitation has arrived, complete with a smiling panda bear head on it.  

If you know my kids, you know that they live for birthday parties.  They start planning their own birthday parties 364 days before the event.  

And then it dawns on her.  Just yesterday, her other good friend invited her to a birthday slumber party.  And can you believe it, it's the SAME DAY.    She has only been to one birthday slumber party in her whole life.  So, this is a big deal.  Now she has to miss out on one of them.  How can she possibly choose?

Hmmmmm. These are the incidents of life that spawn conversations between a mom and her girl.  How do you choose?  How about diplomacy?  Not volunteering information is different from lying.  You can tell girl #1 you can't attend her party without telling her that you picked girl #2's party over hers.  How can we best avoid hurt feelings and girl drama?

Flash forward a few minutes.  The cilantro made it to the fridge, but is barely below room temperature at this point.  

Three kids burst through the door offering to wash my car.  "Where are the supplies, Mrs. Koons?"

Well, that's nice kids.  But despite the fact that my car does need washing, I don't know if you are the people up for the task.  (I imagined streaks of dirt and Windex running down the side of my van.)  

Speaking of which ...  Why do you want to wash my car at this particular moment?  

What?!!  Daughter "B" did what?!!!!  She painted neon green nail polish on my van?!!!!

All of this might have been easier to handle if I had not just finished my utterly exhausting weekly Costco/Super Target circuit (yes, with three kids in tow) and all I wanted to do was take five.

Daughter "B" was promptly sent to her room while I investigated.  Thankfully she had painted on the glass.  A stupid choice, but not as bad as it could have been. 

It boils down to this.  My children will learn to govern themselves, by displaying that they can make wise choices, or I am going to have to keep on being the main person to govern them.  (And, I do expect that at their tender ages, that will generally be the case, anyway!  But daughter "B" is definitely old enough to have known better.)  So, daughter "B" is going to have to stay by my side for the next two days--no playtime with friends, which will be excruciating for her--so I can monitor her choices and she can earn back my trust.  

Because, at this time of the year, the neighborhood kids all roam freely in the common area behind our backyard, not playing with friends for two days is a big deal.  She acted like I told her she'd have to skip Christmas. 

These life lessons can be hard to learn sometimes.  Yes, there were tears.  But if they are not learned now, they will be more painful to learn as an adult.  

Now, what am I going to do with all this quality time with my girl for the next 48 hours? Other than talk about good choices and supervise her cleaning green nail polish off the van window?

Thursday, May 09, 2013

How I Discovered That I Don't Want a Dog

Well, that's not true actually. I have always known that I don't want a dog. Other people's animals are okay, except for a friend's dog who always constanly has his nose in my rear end every time I visit her. He is a big dog and his head is just the right height. And he has really bad breath too. And then when I sit down he puts his head in my lap like he wants me to pet him. Seriously bad dog manners!

The reason I don't want a dog is I can barely take care of my four kids. And I'm not really keen on dog hair floating around the house and getting in my food. And dogs smell. And I really don't want the expense. And I complained about having to clean out the fish bowl when we had a fish. So I really don't think I want a dog.

My kids beg for a dog, but I say no. I am so mean.

This brings me to my main point. My stance against dog ownership was confirmed after Meredith participated in a "Foster Chick Care Program" through our local library. We had three chicks, all hens, named March, April, and May.

It was a wonderful, rewarding, and enriching program. The kids really did learn a lot about chick development and the care of animals and that animals are a big responsibility. The temperature in the cage had to be just right and the food and water had to be refilled and everything had to be cleaned often. The kids were entertained by the chicks constantly for about four days into the two-week program. The cage remained clean for about that long too.

Then, on day five, something magical happened. The novelty wore off and, although the kids played with the chicks now and then, it was no longer as interesting or exciting. And cleaning out the cage was, sure as anything, definitely not exciting.

So, this was the best type of pet to have ... one that could be returned after two weeks!

Here is my Meredith with her project:

The chicks were popular with all the neighbor kids:
And here is Mer, doing her least favorite part of the project, cleaning the cage:
This one is an Americana variety, or an "easter egg" chicken because it lays colorful eggs.
And this one is a Golden Comet, named April:
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