_______________________

Friday, November 19, 2010


twig and feather

I'll still post to Wind Scraps whenever the right post idea presents itself to me, but these days I'm hanging out regularly at my new site, Twig and Feather. This is where I'm posting my favorite recipes, craft ideas, and homemaking tips. I hope you'll come by and say hello!

_______________________

Friday, October 01, 2010


ode to granola

I made a big batch of this for our women's retreat last weekend and have had a few requests for the recipe. Here's a post I wrote four years ago on an August morning when I had a hankering:

You start, of course, with a giant bowl of oats.

I don't mean "quick cook" oats, either. Those worthless flakes pose no challenge to teeth; they offer no satisfaction. Regular oats. Giant bowl.

In a just-big-enough pan, you then heat together a bit of oil and honey. The oil--in my opinion--should be olive, because it's so good for you. And as long as I'm being bossy, I suggest you go out and get yourself a bee hive and do the honey right. But if you can't do that ... say, you live on the third floor of an apartment complex with no balcony ... then find yourself some good local honey. It's better all the way around. It's not been cooked to death so as to kill off all the local pollen and antigens.

You then stir those together with your favorite wooden spoon, the one that's been darkened by a hundred batches of brownies, stew, and caramel corn. That spoon knows its way around a pot. While this mixture is heating, you go a little crazy with the spices. You toss in a generous heap of cinnamon, because you know that's the spice that will circle the house first. Clove is good. And naturally, you'll want a good pinch or three of nutmeg, because there's not a spice in the world as mysterious as nutmeg. It's the one that adds interest to the project ... and you know that.

When the whole spicy concoction is just warm enough, you pour it over the mass of oats and stir till every flake is coated. And then you divide the whole pile onto two baking sheets--again, the ugly ones, the stoneware slabs you've seasoned up with a lot of good cooking.

While the oats get a head start in the oven, you pull the nuts down from the cupboard and set to chopping. Not too fine. Maybe on this day you feel like biting into a mixture of hazelnuts, pecans and sunflower seeds. So you chop the choppables and toss in the tiny seeds and when you feel the oats have waited long enough, you open the oven door again and add it all together.

Ten minutes pass. Twelve. The cinnamon finds its way through invisible portals in the oven and rushes past you in a teasing stream. You catch a hint of nutmeg, a whiff of toasting hazelnut. People began appearing from corners of the house, sniffing and looking at you expectantly.

When you all can't stand it anymore, you flip the oven light on and hunker down together to peek in the window. It looks good. It smells unbelievable. And at just the right moment--when the oats and the nuts and the honey and spices have reached the watched-for shade of gold--you don oven mitts and pull those sheets out. And then, because you're making a perfect batch of granola and it wouldn't be perfect without them, you sprinkle handful after handful of dried cranberries and cherries and raisins over those baking sheets. You stir carefully while someone else grabs bowls and yogurt and milk.

And then, while you're tasting that first warm, spicy mouthful of earthy goodness, you turn your back to the east-facing windows, where a sliver of sunshine has fought its way through the clouds, and you look instead out the west windows. You train your eyes on the curtain of gray over the tops of the evergreens, and you convince yourself it's not an August morning, but a cold day in October--with falling leaves, and a warm fire, and a candle on the mantle.

That's the power of granola.
* * * * *


The actual recipe (as close as I can get):

NOTE: When I first wrote this post, I was baking the oats and the honey/oil/spice mixture for a bit before adding the nuts. I've since started baking the oats and the nuts together, and that's how I'm explaining the recipe below. One way might work better for you, depending on the heat of your oven. So experiment with a couple of batches. That's the best approach to cooking anyway. Just keep fiddling with it until you get it the way you like it.

In a giant bowl, mix 6 cups rolled oats (regular) with about 3 cups any kind or mixture of nuts (we like pecans, walnuts, almonds and pine nuts best).

In a small pan, mix about 3/4 cup of oil (I use olive oil) and 1 cup honey. Throw in some spices: about 1 TBSP cinnamon, 1/2 tsp clove, and a bunch of freshly grated nutmeg. Cook just until bubbly. Pour over oats and nuts, mix well, and spread between two jelly roll (rimmed) pans.

Bake 20-30 minutes @300 or until golden brown, stirring at least once during baking. When it looks delicious to you, pull it out of the oven and toss in about a cup or so of dried fruit (I just toss in handfuls of raisins, dried cranberries, and dried cherries). Stir well. Let cook on baking sheets, stirring several times to help it crisp up. Store in an airtight container, but not until it has cooled completely.

Enjoy :)

Labels:

_______________________

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


today

"It is a moment of light surrounded on all sides by darkness and oblivion. In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another just like it and there will never be another just like it again. It is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious it is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.

'This is the day which the Lord has made,' says the 118th Psalm. 'Let us rejoice and be glad in it.' Or weep and be sad in it for that matter. The point is to see it for what it is because it will be gone before you know it. If you waste it, it is your life that you're wasting. If you look the other way, it may be the moment you've been waiting for always that you're missing.

All other days have either disappeared into darkness and oblivion or not yet emerged from them. Today is the only day there is."

~ Frederick Buechner, in Listening to Your Life

Labels:

_______________________

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


website award

Someone passed on the word that I love my animals ... a mysterious someone named Mike. So I received notice today that Wind Scraps had been given an award. Here's what they said: "A visitor named Mike submitted your website for our website award and he had some nice things to say about your organization.

Our team reviewed your site and found it to promote the ethical treatment of animals as well as good standards for other websites to follow. We looked for things like positive and negative reviews and opinions from your users.

And here's the award:

award
DOG SITE


Thank you, Mike!

_______________________

Sunday, August 01, 2010


the farm in july

Here's a snapshot of July from a few years ago ...

"Well, life on the farm is kinda laid baaaaack!"

Really? Let's see now. How has my week gone ...

Two of our goats, Bambi and Jimmy, had a touch of something or other. Dave gave them a wormer and I gave them two doses of penicillin. It occurs to me now that I'm the family injector. Dave doesn't say, "I need to give the goats (insert: cat, dog ... hamster) a shot." He says, "We need to give the goats a shot," and then he waits for me to grab the paraphernalia and meet him in the goat barn, where he wrassles the goat into position and looks at me with patient, innocent expectation. On the second go-round of said medical procedure, the needle bent as I tried to insert it in Jimmy's skin. He's such a tough buzzard he just swung that whiskery head toward me, bared his lips, threw back his head, and laughed.

I saved a duckling, only to lose it later. Quacks-a-lot, the mother, sat on her second batch of eggs all month. When the one lone hatcher emerged from the nest (which Quacks had cleverly hidden against a fallen log and under a bramble of blackberry bushes) and wobbled after the mother to go meet her eight siblings and two fathers, I stood nearby grinning. It was the cutest picture you can imagine. The duckling was so new-on-her-legs that she'd take three flappy steps and topple to the side. Quacks would move a bit further away and urge Little Bit to keep trying. And try she did, though it took her a good seven minutes to waddle/flop her way to the waiting group. And they greeted her, as I'd expected, but not in the way that you welcome new members of the family. Those eight teenager ducklings rushed and pecked the baby, which pulled a fury out of me in about half-a-heartbeat. I swarmed the group, lecturing all the way, and plucked Little Bit off the grass.

Something you may not know about ducklings is that they imprint on you in about ten seconds. We've been through this before--once a trio of ducklings determined I was their mother and used to wait outside whichever window I last poked my head out. I'd see them on the lawn with their heads turned to one side, rolling that one eyeball around to snatch another glimpse of me, Mama Duck. It wasn't until our goose adopted them that they severed their emotional ties to me. So when I stood, earlier this week, holding that little taupe-ish fluff and whispering comfort, I knew I was in danger of stealing Quacks-a-lot's position.

With Tera's help, we cleared the chicken yard of ducks. She brought me three slices of bread and took Little Bit down to the pen. I stood up near the house and called out, in Motherese (you know, the language of mothers everywhere), "Here, Babies!" All eight teenager ducks--who know my voice and understand that those two words mean "bread"--skittered like the almost-able-to-fly critters they are and halted at my feet. If they were startled by my gritted teeth and eruptions of "I do NOT want to bless you," and "You are very mean siblings," they didn't let on. They cleaned me out of three slices of bread and waddled back to the pen, no doubt to further torment the newcomer. But by this time, Tera had shoved an old pillow into one of their fence holes, and an old tin can into the other--and the marauding ducks couldn't find a way into the chicken pen. With baby safe inside with its mother, I breathed easier ... but I shouldn't have. Two hours later, Quacks-a-lot was mysteriously out of the pen with the others, and Little Bit was nowhere to be found. I don't know what happened to her, but I suspect she followed Mama out and the teenagers got her. I'm still sick about it.

I hemmed two shirts for Zac, and played cards with Tera, and taught a friend how to knit.

I picked and ate the first blueberry of the season ... and it was bliss. Picked a bucket more so we can have spicy blueberry butter and blueberry muffins this winter.

I "supervised" as Dave demolished our rock hearth and wood-burning insert. I'll supervise again when he rebuilds the hearth and installs a free-standing woodstove. And come fall, I'll be busy making cocoa to go along with all the "sitting around the stove" we'll need to do.

I harvested my lavender, and brought it in to dry. Soon I'll have tiny bowls of pungent loveliness scattered throughout the house, and little baggies of the stuff tucked in Tera's dresser drawers, and mine.

I pruned the weakest grape vines, and trimmed my comfrey, and replanted the chives and Sweet Annie the chickens uprooted.

I took Dave and Larry for a walk along the trail, and tried my hardest not to scream when Larry found and sniffed a squished snake lying at the edge of the path.

I counted my roses, over and over. Didn't know I could count that high. When I could bear to do so, I cut three and brought them inside to stick in a Mason jar.

I made banana bread, and wheat bread, giant chocolate chip cookies, and eclairs.

I watched the birth of seven kittens, and the hatching of four chicks.

I read.

So the next time you hear, "Well, life on the farm is kinda laid baaaaack!", see it for the fib it is. Nothin' laid back here. But I can't imagine living any other way.

Labels:

_______________________

Friday, July 23, 2010


my point ... and i do have one


I thought it might be funny, when I was about five, to lock myself in the bathroom while having my bath and not answer my mother's insistent knocking and yelling. Who knows why we do these things?

That was, I believe, my first practical joke. Rough, yes--and not terribly well thought out. But we have to start somewhere. I remember lying in that tepid water holding my hand over my mouth so my mother couldn't hear my giggling over her panicked pounding. She stopped after a moment or two, and I heard the back door open and slam. What I couldn't see from the bathroom--and only learned later when my mother recounted the drama for my father--was that she then vaulted herself over the side of the porch railing, grabbed the axe from the woodpile, gave a hearty whack or six at the bush growing against the window, and jammed a ladder under the windowsill.

The window was unlocked, fortunately. After she climbed in and we exchanged polite hellos, she sat her shaky self down on the toilet lid and told me about the little boy who cried wolf. I thought it was a terrific story and asked her to tell me another.

“You’re missing the point, Shannon. That story is about you. If you keep doing this--if you keep telling fibs--people won’t believe you later when you really need help.”

That was my introduction to “the point.” I thought my mother was extremely clever to just plop herself down on the toilet lid (after pounding, vaulting, whacking and climbing, no less) and create that winsome combination of story and point. I admired her ability to tie a seemingly unrelated tale to my mischief. I wanted to do that, too. I wanted to conjure points from thin air.

That desire still lives in me. As a writer, I’m always on a quest to marry the perfect story to the perfect point. Nothing satisfies me more than walking a reader right up to the door of Aha! and watching them walk through. Life is packed with metaphors--random, disconnected ideas that remain detached and unrelated until someone snatches the two and ties them neatly into "the point."

If you write--and many of you do--I hope you make good use of metaphor and simile. But even if you don't write, you live. And a life attuned to metaphor is a life full of wonder. Take a second listen next time something sparks your interest. Why does it? What does it make you think of? How does that relate to your life? Where have you seen that before?

Just for today, be on the lookout. Points, morals, and lessons are everywhere. Find one in your normal happenings and you'll be hooked. You'll be so delighted you'll look for another. Tomorrow you'll look for three.

It's the richest, most interesting way to live. And that's my point.

Labels: ,

_______________________

Saturday, May 29, 2010


hands

I spent yesterday with two of my very favorite short people. They're now four, but I remember when they first arrived ...

Mark and Taryn's twins are only a month old, and already I have a favorite. It's whichever one I find myself holding.

Wednesday night, I held Duncan. We stared at each other all during worship. I don't know what he was thinking during that time; I was marveling at how much he'd grown in the few days since I'd seen him last. He didn't smile at my expressions or respond to my questions. That will have to wait a bit. He just watched.

While Dave instructed everyone to turn to 2 Samuel 5, I sat rocking Duncan and feeling a little rebellious. I wasn't turning to 2 Samuel 5, but I was listening. After just a few minutes, Duncan made "I'm hungry" movements, so I took the bottle Taryn handed me and started feeding him. He eats like a champ--just the way Zac ate when he was new. Get down to it, do it like you mean it, don't dawdle. And then he spit up--just like Zac used to after every single feeding. I sat wiping and burping and feeding Duncan, and wishing I could turn the clock back and have my own baby again for five minutes.

With his tummy full, Duncan struggled to stay awake. How do month-old babies already know to fight sleep? More evidence of what a good teacher Dave is. Duncan didn't want to miss a word.

But he lost his battle. His eyelids succumbed to gravity, and I was abandoned. I looked at his almost-not-there eyebrows, his nearly invisible eyelashes, and the barely noticeable flaring of his tiny nostrils. I watched the ripple of miniature muscle along his forehead as he furrowed those little eyebrows. Was he dreaming of empty bottles? I placed my finger in his hand and both watched and felt the curl of his fingers as he responded.

It was that hand that captured my thoughts. I turned the palm up and traced each finger, pondering the fact that those hands have yet to test the waters. They haven't yet moved in response to a thought ... good or bad. He hasn't used them yet to pick flowers for his mother, or pet a dog, or clap with delight. Nor has he used them to pinch his sister, or pilfer one of her toys. Those hands are untested, but all the potential is there. As I sat tracing those little fingers and wondering what Duncan would choose to do with his hands as he grew, I prayed God would guide him.

And then I looked at my own hands, and wished again I could turn the clock back; wished for a chance to go back and pick more flowers, and steal less toys.

Labels: ,

_______________________

Friday, May 07, 2010


when life was easy

Tera was cleaning her room not long ago and came downstairs with a bag full of recycling stuff. I almost had her take the bag out and distribute it herself, but at the last minute, I took a peek. And there, tucked behind an empty juice can and a rumpled piece of cardboard, I found my treasures: 21 Kismet score sheets.

Kismet is a step up from Yahtzee, in case you don't know. The dice in Kismet are colored, which adds a whole other dimension to the game. And these 21 score sheets represent an untallied, but high number of hours of my childhood spent trying to out-throw my grandmother, and others.

Tera didn't know. To her, it was just a pile of paper that needed to go. But to me, it was a link to an easier time.

I carried them to the couch much the way you would carry a Faberge egg, or a tripped grenade, or anything else you didn't much care to drop. With the pile and my tea, I set to remembering.

The first name I saw, written on the top right side of the first sheet, was Mickey. And there she was again, sitting at her kitchen table rolling the dice, and giggling with ungrandmotherly delight at all the sixes that have settled between us.

"Another Kismet, Grandma?" I imagine myself saying. "How many do you need?"

The brought-to-life woman gives me a steady look. "I believe I have two more in me."

I scoff and she laughs again.

Looking down at the sheet in my hands, I see her beautiful 2s, with the curl at the top of each, and her precise 7s--the slant of which I could never get right, despite all my practice. I remember days when "Old Arthur," as she called her rheumatoid arthritis, got the better of her hands, and she'd have to grip the pen between tight, grimaced fingers. Even then, her numbers looked elegant and queenly.

Her name is on the top right of several sheets--Max on a day she felt feisty, Maxine H. on another more formal afternoon. Interspersed are other names I haven't seen in awhile--Rose, my grandmother's sister--and the Great Aunt I remember visiting in her house with the tilted floor and few groceries. Grandma and I would bring in bags of food--always with extra, nonessential delights for Aunt Rose's three boys--and after a good, long visit, Grandma would kiss her sister and slip her a $20 bill. Aunt Rose has been gone a long time now, but her name lingers on one Kismet sheet.

My cousins are there--Lisa and Robin, and my sisters--Megan, Tarri and Nancy. No doubt, some of those names hit their sheets as we crammed together on a balmy summer evening in the travel trailer we liked to pretend was our home. We'd bring chips and onion dip out with us, and grease up the dice.

Our husbands are there--but clearly before they were our husbands. Dave W. reads one, back when the W belonged to him alone, and not to us. Dave R. reads another, when he was just my sister's boyfriend.

And then there are the silly names--the ones which freeze our then-moods for all time. Sassy I see, in my own handwriting--and Lulu, Wildflower, Animal, and Stud Muffin in others. If I'm not mistaken, Animal was Grandpa. Should have been, anyway. He got such a kick out of beating us, he once sat me purposefully in front of the sliding glass door while we played Old Maid, just so he could see my cards in the reflection in the window and not grab the spinster out of my hand. I can still hear his laughter when finally, after exaggerating his peeks for my benefit, I turned and figured out his strategy.

I love all the names, all the people, represented on those thin, 4 by 6 sheets of paper. I skim them once again, remembering faces, and comments, and the sounds of laughter ... and a time when life was much, much simpler than it is now.

But then I go back to Mickey, and sit awhile with my friend ... and the person I'm most missing today.

Labels:

_______________________

Monday, March 08, 2010


on 'olks and forkheads

"Can you make mine 'olky?" Tera asks.

She's standing behind me, so she doesn't see my smile.

"I like 'olky eggs," she adds, for good measure.

When will I tell her that eggs have yolks, and not 'olks? Never. Someone else will have to spill the beans, because I cannot bring myself to correct that word.

I couldn't correct Zac, either, when he used to refer to his "forkhead." It was just too cute. Sure, I had visions of a future-him pointing to his forehead and mentioning casually, to his teenaged friends, "Man, I ran into the door the other day and banged up my forkhead," and having to endure their snickers, but still, I could not bring myself to correct that word. He didn't discover the truth until he was about ten. And that was way too early for me.

I've always let those words stand. A much younger Tera would sometimes note my tiredness and pat my shoulders or my head. "Does that feel ya better, Mom?" she'd ask. I'd nod, and let the more-interesting sentence stand. Or she'd offer to read Good Night Moon for me, and I'd hear, "Potanonna time, they was three kittens ... and they all is gonna be died. Amen." After the first time I heard that rendition, I never wanted to read Good Night Moon to her again because I didn't want to ruin her version.

At four, she practically taught herself to read, and she learned the truth about Good Night Moon. She learned that the kittens didn't die, and that the book didn't end with an "Amen." And something saddened inside me. But she was still young enough to not realize that "We should get arid of some of these clothes in my room" contained a wrong word. So I let it stand. Everytime she thought we should get "arid" of something, I treasured her mistake.

She makes so few anymore. She's such a smart girl, with such a broad, tangy, impressive vocabulary. So when she asks for 'olky eggs, I crack two into the pan and I don't say a word.

It just feels me better.

Labels: , ,

_______________________

Monday, February 22, 2010


bonhoeffer on "cheap grace"


I've been reading a lot of Dietrich Bonhoeffer lately, and I find his thoughts about "cheap grace" to be both timely and much-needed in the church today. It's popular right now to talk about our "freedom in Christ," but so often that phrase is merely a convenient smoke screen behind which people hide so that they can indulge in their secret (or not-so-secret) sin. How we need to get back to one central question: Will this please the heart of God? After all, we are not our own, but were bought with a price. And as we read in Romans 14, no freedom is greater than love for our brother. If what we're doing will displease God, misrepresent Him, or cause a brother to stumble, it needs to go. But enough from me. :) Here's Dietrich:

"Luther always looked upon grace as the answer to a sum, an answer which had been arrived at by God, not by man. But his followers then changed the 'answer' into the data for a calculation of their own. That was the root of the trouble. If grace is God's gift of Christian life, then we cannot for a moment dispense with following Christ. But if grace becomes how I choose to live my Christian life, it means that I set out to live the Christian life in the world with all my sins justified beforehand. I can go and sin as much as I like, and rely on this 'grace' to forgive me, for the world after all is justified in principle by grace."

"The Christian life now means nothing more than living in the world and in being no different from the world; it means, in fact, being prohibited for the sake of grace from being different from the world."

"We have gathered like eagles around the carcass of cheap grace, and there we have drunk the poison that has killed the life of following Christ."

"What happened to all those warnings of Luther against preaching the gospel in such a way as to make people feel secure in their ungodly living? Was there ever a more terrible or disastrous instance of the Christianizing of the world than this? What are those three thousand Saxons put to death by Charlemagne compared to the millions of spiritual corpses in our country today?"

"This cheap grace has been no less disastrous to our personal spiritual lives. Instead of opening up the way to Christ, it has closed it. Instead of calling us to follow Christ, it has hardened us in our disobedience. Perhaps we had once heard the gracious call to follow Him and had even taken the first few steps along the path of discipleship, only to find ourselves confronted by the word of cheap grace. Was that not merciless and hard? The only effect that such a word could have on us was to bar our way to progress, to seduce us to the mediocre level of the world.

"Deceived and weakened, men felt that they were strong now that they were in possession of this cheap grace--whereas in fact they had lost the power to live the life of discipleship and obedience. The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works."

"To follow in His steps is something beyond defining. It gives us no intelligible program for a way of life, no goal or ideal to strive after. The disciple simply burns his boats and goes ahead. The old life is left behind, completely surrendered. Discipleship means Jesus Christ and Him alone ... When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to His person. The grace of His call bursts all the bonds of legalism."

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Labels: , ,

_______________________

Friday, February 19, 2010


hannah overton/cc of the coastlands (part 7)

Tonight, 20/20 will air an updated report on Hannah. Please watch! And then, please pray.

Emma wouldn't let me hold her, at first.

She let me stare at her. She smiled for this picture. She even tolerated the touch of my fingers running through her irresistible curls. But when I reached to take her from Noreen and she found herself in strange arms, she cried.

Maybe she'd felt the weight of my gaze when they first arrived. I'd been nervous knowing Larry and the five children were coming to the resort pool to spend our last afternoon and evening with us, and kept darting anxious peeks toward the parking lot. When Noreen finally said, "Here they come," my heart began to tap-dance. What would I say to this man? What could I say? I didn't want to stare, but the staring began. And what a beautiful family to watch. The three oldest--Isaac, Isabelle, and Ali--ran ahead of three-year old Sebastian, and Larry, who carried Emma in her car seat. I believe my first words were, "You kids have the greatest hair anywhere!" And they do. Their thick, sun-kissed coils were in full motion, springing one way and then another. I wanted to touch every curl. But before I could reach out and embarrass us all, Larry and the younger two arrived.

"Hello, Sebastian," I said when we were introduced. He smiled shyly and let me take his hand. I got about twelve seconds out of him before he lost interest, but that was okay. It was time to meet Larry.

"We're praying for you back home," I told him.

"We'll take all those prayers," he answered.

And then there was Emma.

It isn't that she's hurting worse than the rest of them. They all miss Hannah. And I'm sure it's even harder on the others because they know exactly who they're missing. But this baby has been robbed. She's missed her mother bending over her crib and speaking to her in gentle motherese, and rubbing lotion on those little chubby legs, and smiling her to sleep. I wanted to hug all that hurt away. But she'd have none of it, at first.

So I woo her. For two hours, I make faces, ask questions she can't answer (although she tries), and give her my cell phone to chew and poke and drool upon. When we leave the pool to go back up to the condo, I risk a touch of her silky cheek and let my hand linger on that head of shiny black curls. She gives me a look, but she lets me do it.

I get to know Ali and Isabelle while in that room. When I offer to take Ali into the bathroom and dry her hair, she gives me a pensive look, hesitates a loooong half a second, and then says, "Yes. You can do that." Once that hair dryer starts up, so does her chatter. I hear "actual" this (she means "actually") and "actual" that, and "actual" everything in between. After six or seven references, I begin to think she actually likes that word.

We leave the bathroom as friends. Isabelle decides she might be able to endure a bit of that, so she's next. When she slips in a few "actuallys," I smile.

We sit at the table, waiting for the clock to say "dinner," and I watch Larry fathering his children. His voice is calm. His eyes rarely leave his children. And when he deals with them--to wipe Ali's hair from her eyes or move back a cup Emma is in danger of overturning, his movements are gentle.

At one point, realizing that he hadn't brought up the kids' change of clothes, Larry says, "I'm going to run down to the car and get their clothes." If it was any other father holding any other one-year old, I'd let the words out. I'd say, "I'll take the baby." But I bite back the instinct. It's so obvious that he wants to be with her, and she wants to be with him right back.

Isaac, Isabelle and Sebastian see him rise. "Where ya going, Daddy? Can I go to the car with you?"

Larry nods. When Isabelle reaches up to take his hand, he meets her coming down. And when the family-who-can't-get- enough-of-each-other slip out the door (Ali, talking my sister's ear off, is oblivious to their departure), I have to go in my room for a minute and release a bit of the emotion overwhelming me.

A bit later, we leave for Snoopy's Pier on Padre Island, a no-frills, good-eatin', fishermen's hangout. Just as I've been promised, the mahi mahi fish & chips melt right in my mouth. But what I'll remember about Snoopy's is that it is here, at this rough-hewn table with the lapping of the Gulf below us and the chatter of patrons and the smell of fish all around us, that Emma decides I am safe.

I reach for her again, and she leaves the haven of Noreen's arms. Looking up at me, she grins as though we've been friends forever, begins chattering a blue streak of nonsense, and shows me how she can point her index finger up in the air--giggling, as she does so, at her own dexterity.

She spies my cup of water and lets me know she's interested, so I start giving her drinks from the straw. While I'm doing so, Noreen begins to prompt her to say "please." I then begin to prompt her to say "thank you." Something about that hurts my heart. This baby doesn't need a village. She needs her mother.

We share a lemon wedge (which she loves) and then she notices the fish plaque on the wall behind us. "Fishie," I say, pointing. I say it again a time or two. But after just those few references, she points to it on her own when I say the word. She's brilliant. And she's kind. After testing a limp fry, she offers the other half to me. No sense in declining, because this child is on a mission. So I accept the half-eaten fry and taste her little lemony fingers as they poke the potato in my reluctant mouth. She's not content with my "thank you." I have to follow up with appreciative, "that's the best limp, half-eaten fry I've ever had" noises.

And then, finally, tired from all that brilliant poking, pointing and prodding, Emma rests her tiny head on my shoulder. My heart does a flip-flop. And I think, This is for you, Hannah. I'll do this for you tonight because you can't. But I'll pray for the day when you take it all back for yourself.

*    *    *

This morning, I'm thinking of black curls and lemony fingers. And I'm praying as hard as I have in a long while.

Labels: ,