I stood with my back to the room, scrubbing the stovetop while a full orchestra performed in our apartment.

The dishwasher stood in for the string section, producing various flowing harmonies and chords. Mercy used a box flap and a few toys to give light percussion to the group. A flutist perched in the tree outside and expertly warbled for us through the patio doors, while Liberty hummed a happy, mellow saxophone or French horn sounding melody, engrossed in her coloring at the dining room table.

I smiled at the spilled grease on the stove. "We're pretty blessed, you and I, aren't we?"

The stove agreed.
We made it to the Strawberry Festival yesterday with our friend Rosemary and shared two mountainous helpings of strawberry shortcake complete with ice cream and whipped cream. Oh, the deliciousness! Vocal Bling, an a cappella female version of a barbershop quartet serenaded us while we ate, and I decided if I were ever part of an a cappella female version of a barbershop quartet, I would want to be named Vocal Bling also.

Then the four of us stood in line for an hour to receive a balloon from a clown. Mercy wanted a "key-cat." Liberty requested a princess and received a pink scepter that has been a delight unto her soul until it popped this morning. The heat, the waiting and the beating sun all convinced Rosemary and I that our time at the festival was quickly drawing to a close, and after the balloons were obtained, Rosemary wisely retreated to an air-conditioned space called home. The girls and I bravely found the back of the face-painting line, but when I spotted a woman still in that line who had joined it at the same time that we had joined the balloon line, I told my sweating, sticky, nap-ready daughters that it was time to go home.

"BUT I WANT TO GET MY FAAAAAAAAACE PAAAAAIINNTTEEEDDD!" When the wailing did not quickly subside, I realized desperate measures were called for.

"I can paint your faces when we get home, but you have to obey and be respectful. Now. It is time to go. What do you say?"

Surprisingly enough, two happy faces beamed up at me, and two "Yes, Mommy!"s chorused out of smiling lips. Startled at the abrupt cheeriness, I stood in line undecided for another thirty seconds.

Then the sun came back out from behind it's passing cloud, and I quickly turned the stroller toward home.

And that, my friends, is how I became a water-color face-painter. Mercy was my first victim. I painted a red heart on one cheek and a purple star on the other. Quick and easy (except for the wiggling), DONE!

I smiled, pleased with myself, and considered carrying my $1.00 non-toxic water-color kit to the next fair with me. I could set up a booth, charge a quarter per face, and make a lovely profit. I began dreaming of all the garage sale bargains I would be able to purchase.

But then Liberty stepped up to my brush and requested a dragon on one side and a "princess with a pretty dress and a crown" on the other side.

Oops, dreamed too soon.
My friend Rosemary called on Monday to ask if I wanted to hang out at the Strawberry Festival downtown with her on Wednesday, and I excitedly said YES! So early yesterday morning, I fed the girls breakfast and then gave them a bath. What? Bathing doesn't normally follow every meal at your house? How about just the meals that involve syrup?

I dressed them in really cute outfits, put adorable bows in their hair, and off we drove to complete a round of errands before meeting up with our friend. I stopped off at the library to return some books, stopped off at the church to go over VBS plans for next week, stopped to bottle-feed some orphaned kittens for a busy friend, and finally drove downtown to meet Rosemary.

The unplanned feeding had made me late, and I thought it strange that Rosemary hadn't called my cell looking for me. I stopped in at her workplace to see if she was waiting, but I was told that she had gone to lunch. Gone to lunch? She's supposed to be finished at noon. And then I wondered out loud, "Is today Wednesday or Tuesday?" The lady at the desk grinned knowingly. "It's Tuesday."

I considered going home, but I had already told the girls that we were going to have a picnic, and they were so excited. So we walked to a nearby flower garden, home to several benches and a "water mountain" as the girls call water fountains, and we unpacked our picnic lunch. A relaxing, quiet time of eating and enjoying the beauty around us hovered over our bench, and the three of us sat contentedly together. Eventually, I stood to throw our garbage away, while Liberty and Mercy followed make-believe paths among the mulch, flowers and boulders. After such an enjoyable experience, I didn't want to return home to vacuum and launder and scrub, and we still had a few hours before naptime.

"Want to go on a sculpture hunt?" I asked the girls.

"YEAH!!!" Liberty screamed as she jumped up and down. Mercy watched her sister's excitement and decided she wanted in on it too. "Yes," she enunciated decisively and seriously put her hand into mine so we could walk down the sidewalk together. We picked up a map of the Sculptures On The Square and began walking. The fun part of all this is that the sculptures are scattered over several blocks and displayed in very unexpected places, so you have to hunt for them. Also, they are so life-like, that on a sidewalk hosting other passersby, sometimes the sculpture looks like it is just another pedestrian.

The first sculpture stood in the garden with us and was easy to find. The second sculpture - a policeman writing out a ticket - stood two blocks away in front of the police station, fittingly enough. Liberty stared at him, and in a small voice whispered, "He is scary."

"Oh, no," I responded cheerfully, "this is a policeman! Policemen are nice, and they help take care of us. They keep us safe and make sure we are obeying the laws. See his uniform? That's how you know if somebody is a policeman because they wear a uniform like this, and see his hat? And his badge? And look, he has a gun in a holster, and some bullets on his belt. This is a ticket pad in his hand, and he is writing on the ticket because someone disobeyed the law. See? He's good."

"OOHH!" Liberty said with pleased confidence in her voice. "He IS good, Mommy! That's great, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. Thank you, God, for policemen."

"Yes. And if somebody bees mean to me, then the policeman will pull out his gun and SQUIRT them! Right, Mommy?"

"Ummm, y-yeah..."
Mercy leveled the "Why? Weapon" with it's infinite ammunition supply at her sister this morning, and I sat back to enjoy the scene. I thought I'd have to wait until Liberty Grace was grown and had kids of her own before I'd get this level of satisfaction out of life. The conversation started innocently enough.

Mercy: "Whatch doin? Gace?"
Liberty: "I'm resting."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I'm tired."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I need to rest."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I'm tired."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I need to rest."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I'm tired."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I need to rest."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because. I'm. Tired."

A slight pause followed while Mercy Jane arranged herself on the floor next to her sister and snuggled up. I stayed tuned, knowing round two was just around the corner.

M: "Whatcha doin? Gace?"
L: "I'm resting."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I'm tired."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I'm tired."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I'm tired."
M: "Why?"

And so on...until even I was bored of the conversation. After quite a while of this, the conversation took an unexpected turn.

M: "Why?"
L: "Because I'm tired."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I'm tired."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I'm tired."
M: "Why?"
L: "Because I'm..." (Apparently, she realized she had just wasted thirty minutes of her life, and she stopped to find another tact. Then with the tone of a patient school teacher she began speaking again.) "Mercy Jane, do you see my eyes? See how they are tired? And do you see my tongue? See how it hangs out of my mouth like this?" (She waited while Mercy examined her facial features.) "That means I'm tired."

M: (pause) "Oh."

Now why haven't I ever thought of that? Maybe the child just needs a visual aid.
On Saturday night, Jeremy got down on his hands and knees and scrubbed the bathroom floor. He did this for two reasons:

1. We are silly people who put our mop into storage a year ago and refuse to purchase a new one when the one that we have is perfectly good.

2. It was my Birthday Party Day! In this house, on your Birthday and/or your Birthday Party Day, you do not have to do anything that you don't want to do (within reason).

Isn't he wonderful?

Since my Birthday was on Monday, and my Birthday Party Day was on Saturday, I had a wonderful Birthday Week to savor in-between. It all started where you would expect it to start, bright and early Monday morning. "Happy birthday, Wonderful," my husband's deep voice rumbled gently into my ear. "I love you!" When my eyes finally opened, the bedroom was empty, and the sound of the front door thumping closed informed me that my husband had left for work. I smiled a happy, loved, contented smile and let my eyes slowly drift closed, and that is how they remained for the next twelve seconds until Liberty shouted in her room, "GOOD MORNING, MEECEE DANE!"

And the day was off!

Friends and family blessed me with birthday greetings on Facebook and lovely phone calls. Jeremy called me several times during the day just to shout out, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" He sent me several celebratory emails, and when he arrived home from work, he led the girls in a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday to me. Each day of the week brought something new. A homemade card from Liberty Grace on Tuesday, a night off on Wednesday so that I could go to Bible Study with my ladies' group without children in tow, and when I returned home, Jeremy had done the dishes! A special family night out for supper at a local Mexican place on Thursday, and on Friday a hilarious game of Monopoly Cards that lasted late into the night.

And here, I must interrupt my story to tell you a cuter story: While at La Limas on Thursday, I discovered Jeremy's covert operation involving his secret agent Mercy Jane - Operation: Happy Birthday. Anytime I was out of hearing range, he would coach her to shout out "Happy Birthday, Mommy!" when I returned. However, his plan kept backfiring. Whenever I would return, he would whisper, "What do you say, Mercy Jane?" and she would respond, "THANK YOU!" Laughingly frustrated, he would say, "No, what do you SAY, Mercy Jane?" And she would hesitate..."Thank you! DADDY!" After several rounds of this occurring throughout the week, I finally discovered the operation when Jeremy misjudged my hearing distance at the restaurant table. Oh, how we laughed!

Saturday was the day set aside to be called Birthday Party Day, and as such, it had a reputation to live up to. After a lazy morning, we left the house around eleven o'clock, and stopped off at KFC for a picnic lunch. Then we headed for the zoo! I have been wanting to take the girls to the zoo ever since we arrived in Indiana, and finally, my dream has been realized. It is such a large zoo that although we spent three hours there, we only saw an eighth of it, but it was an action-packed, hands-on fraction. The girls petted so many animals that I couldn't even begin to recount them to you. The Ball Python does stands out in my mind, however. At one point, the snake handler glanced at a thermometer and mentioned that it was about 92 degrees, and I had to agree with her assessment. We all splashed in "spraygrounds" throughout the park, but for Jeremy and I that wasn't enough, until finally God opened the skies and it POURED down on us for twenty minutes or longer. Relief! We walked the rest of the eighth sopping wet and wonderfully cool.

We drove home with the intention of changing our clothes and getting a quick nap in before suppertime, but Liberty and Mercy both fell asleep during the ride back. Now, anyone who has had toddlers knows that if you rescue a sleeping child from the extremely uncomfortable contortionistic nap they are suffering through in the car and carry them gently into the house and successfully tuck them into their very own soft and comfortable bed without waking them, once the rescuer takes one step back from the child's bed, said child will immediately terminate any inklings that their systems might have had of taking a nap, and they will bound forth from their mattress with rejuvenated glee. Thereby, robbing all parents from any respite they might have wanted to enjoy.

Luckily, we have toddlers, so we are able to make informed decisions.

We decided to remain in the car for the duration of the napping period, and that is how Jeremy and I joined the ranks of the extremely uncomfortable contortionistic car nappers. The four of us slept in our van, in the parking lot, in front of our apartment building, for a little more than an hour. And what a restful sleep it was! After our refresher, I ran into the apartment, grabbed a change of clothes for everyone, did a little freshening up of myself and ran back out to the van. We then chose a fancy Italian restaurant in town that we had never been to, and indulged in the most exquisite flavor explosions known to mankind.

Sandra D's has become my new favorite restaurant. Replete with luxurious ambiance and what could have been the swelling soundtrack for the movie Return to Me (one of my favorites), our dining experience left NOTHING to be desired. Oh, it was wonderful!

Finally sated, we left the building and performed a lazy family-hand-holding dance to our van. After a waiter and then the chef himself brought Liberty's pink doggie and my black camera out to us, we backed out of our spot and pointed Wynni towards home, but a little orange light began flashing at us.

"A door is ajar." "A door is ajar."

I despise vehicles that state obvious inaccuracies. Everyone knows that doors are not jars. Who do they think they're fooling, anyway?

Both Jeremy and I got out and performed various operations on the sliding door on Mercy's side of the van, but it didn't do any good. As we stood out there, bent over, peering into the bottom door track, the downpour started again with a vengeance. We scurried back to our dry seats inside the vehicle, and Jeremy drove with one hand bent behind him, holding the door handle so that it would not blow open. Thankfully, we were only a few blocks from home.

Whew, this is getting long! I'll make it short. We waited out the storm in our van; Jeremy heroically repaired the door; we put the girls to bed, and then Jeremy scrubbed the bathroom floor.

What more could you ask of a Birthday Week?

But you see, it wasn't over yet.

(Did I surprise you?)


(Because I got surprised, too.)

Last night, Jeremy made Secret Ingredient Crock Pot Roast, Buttered Lima Beans, and his World Famous Mashed Potatoes for our supper. (Don't tell me you've never heard of his World Famous Mashed Potatoes. That would not be right.) He told me it was for my Birthday, but this did not compute to me because my Birthday, my Birthday Party Day and even my Birthday Week were all over. Nevertheless, he insisted that I was wonderful enough to have an extra day of celebration, and therefore he made a special supper for me.

And after supper, he delivered a birthday card signed by Liberty and Mercy and Daddy. It was purple with silver glitter, the words on it said Another year older; Another year hotter, and it sang when I opened it. Of course, Liberty claimed the card immediately so she could dance, and then Mercy handed me yet another present, the DVD of JULIE AND JULIA!

Then we put the girls to bed and sat side by side dunking oreos into milk and playing Monopoly Cards -- wherein I trounced him.
Last night, I drove past The Yellow House to get to my friend's home where our Bible Study was held.

And I cried.

Not big sobbing "Why Me?" kind of tears but just tiny, peaceful rivlets of goodbye to the dream.

And then...

And then...

My realtor was at the Bible Study. In fact, she hosted it at her house, and she told me that The Yellow House had NOT been sold. Something held the process up, and as of this moment it is not sold.

Well, whadda ya know?

I told Jeremy this news when I arrived back at the apartment, and he asked, "?"

"I know!" I said right back at him.

The End.

Really now, this is silly, right? We're building a house, for Pete's sake. (Well, actually we're building it for our sake.) But the owners of the plot of land we've picked out have not made any contact with us in the four weeks that we've tried getting in touch with them. Who knows?

(God does!) So we're leaving it at that.

We are proceeding with the building process (which means we are waiting on the land owners to contact us back) and ignoring The Yellow House. If God wants us to have it instead, He's going to have to call us on the phone and say, "PLEASE GO MOVE INTO THAT HOUSE ALREADY, YOU THICK-HEADED DREAMERS." And then we will.


But if He doesn't call us on the phone and say, "PLEASE GO MOVE INTO THAT HOUSE ALREADY, YOU THICK-HEADED DREAMERS," then we will move into our built home instead and live happily ever after.
...as I welcome my newest nephew, Levi Graham, to the world!

Isn't he adorable? He was born May 26th to my bro-in-law and sis-in-law, Josh and Melissa, and I haven't gotten to hold him yet. But my day is coming.

You hear me, Levi? I'll get there somehow because I love you! :-)
It's not that I don't love you all, cuz really, I do. It's not that life hasn't been blog-worthy, cuz really, it has. It's just that we're spending most of our time outside now, and when we do finally make it inside, I have laundry and dishes and meals to tend to. It's also that I'm trying to get to bed earlier as part of my new lifestyle, and none of that lends itself to extra time to spend blogging.

However, the new house is progressing well. We signed off on our plot plan last week - hooray! I'm currently picking a stain color for the front door - leaning towards cherry #2, but we'll see.

The family is progressing well, also. My birthday arrives on Monday - I've asked for a pony; Liberty loves the outdoors - she went streaking this morning, and I had to reign her in a bit; Jeremy's acclimating to his job - he put on his new company shirt last night and danced around the living room for me; Mercy HATES bugs and loves dirt, but Liberty and I actually convinced Mercy to touch a roly-poly this morning - she did with the accompaniment of much shrieking laughter and no wailing and gnashing of teeth. See? Progress!

How's your summer been going?