Tag Archives: Family

Three faces and scarf

I was wearing this scarf in the cold wind yesterday, to a doctor’s appointment and the pharmacy. I find the scarf pretty, and it’s also warm and doesn’t itch. My Mum-in-law made it for me last Christmas. I sent her a note yesterday that I continue to love the scarf, and that it receives compliments every time I wear it. I took this photo so she would know to which scarf I was referring; she has sent me several.

Our expressions: I am taking the selfie, and it is taking a bit of strategy to get the three of us in the frame. Effie’s expression is adorably coy, but she’s a tad squirmy; and Vic is thinking about something funny.

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Effie watching me read, and other highlights of summer

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Effie has the shade. She is under a grapevine; I am not, because of the bees, a multitude of which flits purposefully among the leaves and stems. My husband juiced the last of the grapes the bees had not sampled. The remaining fruit continues to draw grape-sampling, drinking, consuming bees. Effie is not a threat to their supply, and she is not disturbed by the bees.

The temperature was a brisk mid-80s this morning, and I sat for a little while in Effieland, reading A River Runs Through It. I’d have stayed longer, but the bees were daunting and I went indoors.

By 11 AM it was 108°, and even Effie came indoors. She napped through the heat of the day, dividing her time between the bed and her hammock.

A very important forthcoming summer highlight is my granddaughter’s fifth birthday. I decided to start a charm bracelet for her, and my daughter thought it was a great idea; it will be an ongoing thing. I will keep up with my granddaughter’s interests and commemorate them with charms. I will use lobster claw clasps, as I do with my own charm bracelet, to make the charms easily interchangeable on the bracelet, creating some huge factorial number of possible groupings as her collection grows. The project will motivate me to keep up with my granddaughter’s interests as she grows–and motivate her and her Mom to keep me up on them. This is a boon, because she and her parents live in Alaska. My hope is that my granddaughter and I will have something in common that we both treasure.

And, though we have heat, and sluggish fish, and noisy, exuberant jet boaters, yet we do take pleasure in fishing!

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Aunt Fran on Aging

My husband has enviable genes on both sides of his family: they maintain full cognitive powers to the end of life. We still have his mom (our only remaining parent), 79, and her sister Fran, 80. This Christmas, Aunt Fran sent us a card with her insights on aging that I thought amazing, and I knew she wouldn’t mind if I shared them.

I’m observing the aging process at the end of life as opposed to the growing process at the beginning—why the term “growing” old? Since metaphorically growing is inaccurate (grow = increase in size; develop: Random House Dictionary); nor does “growing up” apply as we age—I’m much shorter than in years back. God willing, one is willing and able to observe the decline and/or deterioration of one’s own mind and body. Life is such a process and I look back acknowledging that God is my best friend—and how I’ll hold on to Him—but now aware that Christ has been holding me so close to Him in His loving arms. . .

I adore Aunt Fran.

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A sinner’s merry Christmas

I didn’t think so much about “firsts,” and seldom recorded milestones when my daughter was growing up. Some parents do, but for some of us, our children’s childhood whirrs by in a blur. I don’t know how the passing of my own childhood was perceived by my parents, but it was all kind of a blur to me. I usually think in terms of places where we lived and my age in those places. I have a few memories of events, like Christmases and birthdays, associated with particular places.

Or maybe I was only there in pictures.

This Christmas is my granddaughter’s first Christmas to which she has any chance of attaching any memories; she wasn’t quite four months old at this time last year. This year, she has interests: she scrolls through her mom’s iPad, looking at baby pictures. Does she know the baby in the pictures is herself? I don’t know. She delights in eliciting different sounds from different musical instruments; she organizes things in stacks according to their kind, and builds pretty complicated structures with Legos.

Somehow, though, I suspect this may be a first and only Christmas in many ways for my granddaughter, and for her attentive and ever-amazed parents. This is her first Christmas as a liberated, fully ambulatory being. She’s already a little woman: she has zillions of shoes. This is the first Christmas she will be clearly speaking more than 20 words in their proper contexts. This Christmas will find her sorting through the wrap and wonders, delighting in the mystery of it all.

At nearly16 months, my granddaughter has a sense that all the wondrous things to be manipulated in her environment are for her and are all about her. She is a competent narcissist. She is a fully evolved, demonstrably accomplished sinner.

She should be. She comes from a long line of sturdy sinner stock. We all actualized our birthright, brilliantly. That’s why we need a Savior.

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Collateral fomentations

I “sleep” like a hostage rigged to a loaded spring-gun aimed at my head. Combing my hair is excruciating; speaking and noise often cause scalp pain that quickly or later escalates to migraine. My heart is torn out, dragging, tethered by a cord of familial passion, behind a spirit trying to be brave. How am I to enjoy my active grandchild, toddler of wonder, when she comes—the wonderchild I have not yet touched—in this condition? How am I to be unable to? Why are simple things suddenly impossible? Why do people assume these things are simple and joyful, plaguing me with questions: when is my family’s visit? How excited I must be!—wonderful things I cannot imagine being up to? Lord, You know.

There have been offsets since I jotted this yesterday, which I did in order to have an honest chronicle of the peaks and troughs of probably my most abysmal health sequence in seven years. God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, and great is His faithfulness (Lam. 3:23).

I read Romans 5-8. A few hours later, my daughter e-mailed some pictures and a video of my grandaughter triumphantly articulating her first word (“Baby!”), and checked in for a Skype time for today–and she knew nothing of my ER jaunt, had no idea my migraines were worsening–it was simpy the providence of God’s merciful love beaming through my daughter, whose own daughter is clueing her in on things outside herself.

The cheer this brought didn’t reduce the gnawing in my scalp, but it did reduce my terror of the gnawing. Having God’s abiding mercy brought so imminently to mind must necessarily reduce our terror; if He is for us, who or what could possibly prevail against us?

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Our bloodless routine goes on…

While some big chain stores in other parts of the country were experiencing record sales and masses of blood-sport shoppers, we sort of yawned ourselves into the evening, slept through the entire night without making a midnight Wal-Mart stop, and shopped for groceries Black Friday morning in a near-empty Safeway. Our gentle traffic flowed normally, and we noticed plenty of parking space everywhere we looked. I cling to my pleasant routine like a starfish to his rock, heedless of much at all outside my pleasant valley environs.

Among the very most pleasant highlights of my routine is my weekly Skype visit with my daughter and my incredible now-three-month-old granddaughter. How fast she is growing, and in such suspense we remain, awaiting the outcome of the clone wars: will her eyes stay blue, like my daughter’s and mine, or will they turn brown, like her handsome dad’s? They actually seem to be favoring a turn toward hazel, which would be kind of a win-win anyway.

Pain is pain, and part of life, and life goes on. Exercise only aggravates, my muscles fairly scoff at pharmaceutical remedies, and the very best therapy I have found is finding wonderful snowsuits and warm clothing in my granddaughter’s size at the children’s resale shop and the St. Vincent Thrift Store. This sort of shopping is a joy, and I’m working on handbag logistics, trying to find a way to haul my necessary gear (my idea of necessary would likely stymie a woman who can leave home with nothing but a phone, a key, and a lipstick) without having my scalene muscles drilled with burning pokers: the sensation left by even the softest bag strap on even the lightest bag.

The fact that we live in the Lewis-Clark Valley, the fact of new life in our family, and the fact of God’s radiant manifest goodness all around us contribute the most important thing in the world, which is a routine of thankfulness: a routine sometimes diverted, but one which always compels return.

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Welcome to Grandma Lauren’s reading studio


My granddaughter lives more than 3000 miles away, and I can read to her every day. Every time I have shared the nature of my project — whether with a teacher, grandparent, or librarian — the idea has wowed them, and I’m honestly amazed that I’m not simply following in a long-standing tradition. So whether or not my project is original, perhaps it will inspire others who have long-distance grandchildren and longing hearts to read to them.

I invested in a digital recorder. There were more expensive ones and cheaper ones; mine was around $50 on Amazon and its main selling point was its excellent reviews. It is very easy to use, and I simply record myself reading a book. These are very small books for very small people, and one book, read slowly, with about 5 seconds between page turns, creates an MP3 file of well under 10 minutes. One of the books I have read is only 55 seconds long.

It’s a simple matter to upload the MP3 file to my computer, and I store all the files in a folder on my desktop. I rename each file with the book title. When I have about an hour’s worth of files, I will upload them to a CD. I list the book titles according to track number, and put an illustration in the CD box. Once I have a CD ready, I send it to my daughter, along with the books recorded on it. Since it’s easy and a lot of fun to read several books in an afternoon, I can have a CD ready in a couple of days.

There is a lot out there about how important it is for an infant to begin hearing voices of important people in their lives as early as possible. The books I am recording will accustom my granddaughter to my voice. During the earliest stage of her baby’s life, my daughter will play this CD for her for periods of time. Nothing will make sense of course at six weeks old, but the baby will become accustomed to my voice. Later, when my granddaughter is old enough to actually be read to, my daughter can show her the pictures in the book while the recording is played of grandma reading to her.

The project does not have to be expensive. Offsetting the cost of the digital recorder, I hit a library sale and scored 18 books, including seven by A. A. Milne, for $1.85. In any case, I happen to think books are an excellent investment — and, no matter what the cost, it’s less than airfare. And for someone who can’t fly for health reasons, the bargain is incalculable.

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Every good book ends with a new beginning

The title of this post is the final caption of the photo/history scrapbook I made for my daughter and granddaughter. My book chronicles five generations, and I have to say that who we are as a family has never looked so good, nor made me so happy.

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What I’m learning from scrapbooking so far

I’m progressing through the scrapbook album I am making for my daughter and granddaughter, even to the point of boldly gluing — with repositionable glue — photos and captions onto expensive paper. I’ve decided that since I am a no-frills person, I’m going to make this, my first and only scrapbook, a no-frills album. I am more interested in the content, which is original photos and accompanying information, than I am in making quaintly elegant pages with all sorts of decorations that compete with the actual contents. I have learned that this is heresy for some scrapbookers, but I am who I am, and I am a chronicler, not a lace-and-quilts glue stick jockey.

Actually, the experience of making this book has been edifying and very happy. I’ve learned that photos may sometimes belie memories, and this can be a very good thing. I see loving interactions in our family of origin that I had forgotten and displaced with unhappier memories. I’ve also learned that there should probably be a national database of persons to whom it should be a felony to sell a glue stick.

I had concerns about how the content would flow, but themes readily revealed and sequenced themselves. It was as if each picture were a puzzle piece but all the pieces immediately fell into place to cohere in an overall picture that told the whole story. The layout unfolded intuitively. Now I’m down to gluing and writing captions.

Providentially, the photos I ultimately determined were indispensable fit exactly the number of pages that came with the standard book. Originally I thought that the book would have just eight pages, but it actually has 10 page pockets, and each holds a page with contents on front and back, so my book will have 20 pages. Perhaps the most amazing thing I have learned is that in a 20-page book of quintessential family photos, one picture of my inimitable Covenant Cat is sufficient. This was a truly remarkable discovery, since he dominates all the other photo albums of the last 13 years.

Another important lesson this far into the project is impressed on my mind, and on my fingers and clothing, and on the surface of my desk, and in little splotches on the book’s plastic page pockets: I hate glue.

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Aspiring to an eight-page life

I have been thinking a lot lately about the “grandma book” I am going to make for my granddaughter with the help of my scrapbook genius friend. I don’t speak the language of scrapbooking at all, but from what my friend has told me so far, apparently there are starter books of eight pages. She assures me, as though eight pages were not a sufficiently terrifying prospect, that I can always add more pages. Onto these eight pages, one pastes, presumably according to some conceptual format, captioned photographic evidence of however many of one’s own and others’ lives one desires to represent.

I am going to my friend’s home this afternoon to see her scrapbook materials and get an idea of what form I would like my project to take. She favors paper sets that apparently save you a lot of work. I have no idea what these are, but I will soon see. In the meantime, my preliminary work has been very largely, and fairly painfully, reflective.

The overarching principle before me is that I cannot take away the sin of the world and make it clean and perfect for my granddaughter, herself a sinner this entire first month of her life. And, I’ve never actually thought of ours as exactly the sort of family typically memorialized in scrapbooks.

Ours is a family that divorce has both sundered and enlarged; and, while sin does not cancel DNA, I’m not sure how many people’s lives I feel responsible for representing in my book to my granddaughter just because I happen to be in possession of some ancient photos of them. I think our present nuclear family — my husband, me, and our cat — and pictures of my daughter throughout her life, would be sufficient. I can always send my daughter more pictures along with the book, and let her get the extra pages if she chooses to. Is this a copout, I taunt myself, or is it a matter of good editing?

My husband reminds me that I’m a very good editor. I am warming to the eight-page limit. I have nine photo albums — weighing a total of 38 pounds! — of photos to cull, scan, and print. The visual logistics of the finished product I leave to my friend. The hard work for me is the physical handling of the heavy albums, and the mental and emotional handling of some of their contents. The memories don’t really sting; it’s the decision of what pictures to include and exclude that pricks a bit. Thankfully, memories are just memories, not revivals of erstwhile lives. And, most thankfully, the exercise has been a helpful reminder that we don’t show up for Judgment clothed in our original-issue DNA.

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