Please watch this YouTube video first, so you can sing along with my new lyrics.

Here are the new lyrics:

Well, let me tell you the story of a girl named Missy on that tragic and fateful day.  She put her voter ID in her pocket, kissed her kids and hubby, went to vote on Election Day.

But will she get to vote, oh will she get to vote?  Well, her fate is still unlearned.  She may search forever in her house and car, and she may never get to vote.

Missy handed her registration to the people at the polls, and she asked them if she could vote.  When she got there they told her she had to have a photo ID, or she'd never be able to vote.

But will she get to vote, oh will she get to vote?  Well, her fate is still unlearned.  She may search forever in her house and car, and she may never get to vote.

Missy's husband joined her at the polling station, and he asked her where her ID was.  "In my wallet," Missy told him, "but my wallet's been missing, and I have no idea where it is!"

But will she get to vote, oh will she get to vote?  Well, her fate is still unlearned.  She may search forever in her house and car, and she may never get to vote.

Now, you citizen of the US, don't you think it's a scandal how Missy keeps losing her wallet?  Fight the absent-mindedness!  Send her lots of chocolate!  Help her vote on Election Day!

But will she get to vote, oh will she get to vote?  Well, her fate is still unlearned.  She may search forever in her house and car, and she may never get to vote.

Photo by: Tijmen Stam (Wikicommons)
Thank you very much, everyone, for singing along!  It turns out, the nice ladies at the poll let me vote using a provisional paper ballot, but it will not be counted until I take my voter registration and my driver's license to the courthouse to prove to them that I am who I claim to be.  I plan to do that today because I found my missing wallet in a grocery bag in the pantry.  You know, one of those bags that you crumple up and save for when you want to throw away something particularly smelly.  Oops.

Two weeks ago, Jeremy predicted that I would not be able to vote in this election, and I hotly protested his prediction.  He cited my past election day difficulties in his reasoning, and I had to agree with him sheepishly.  (Apparently, voting brings out the Kingston Trio in me, as evidenced by that last post link.)  But I insisted that this year would be different!  This year, I had time; I had all the necessary supplies; I would vote!  And then I lost my wallet.

But now it's found, so my fate is about to be learned!  Wish me luck!
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Yesterday after school I took the girls to Jeremiah's to get their faces painted for Halloween.

Janet did a wonderful job on my two little kittens and my brown and white fox, 
and she and Mercy really bonded during Mercy's face-painting session.

Later, Little T's big brother, C, joined us at home and the four of them were very eager to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters who came by.  They organized themselves in advance with each one having a job to do.  One was a door opener, one was a candy basket holder, and the other two were candy passer-outers.  They took this division of labor about as seriously as union workers do, and when the doorbell finally started ringing, no one except the door opener could open the door.  Frequently, the door opener was busy doing other things when the doorbell rang, and so the trick-or-treaters had to stand out in the cold and the rain and wait for the door opener to arrive at his post while the other three children danced around the inside of the closed front door shouting, "Open the door!  Open the door!  Someone's here!  Hurry!  Someone's here!"

About halfway through the evening, the kids noticed that I had not worn anything outrageous this year, and they asked me, "Where's your costume?  What are you going to be?"  I had been planning all along to dash to my closet full of costumes and wigs and surprise them with something fun, but I had run out of time before the trick-or-treaters started arriving, and I didn't want to leave them even for a few minutes to answer the door without me in the room.  So I hadn't worn anything. (Anything costumey that is.  I was wearing clothing.)

Well, the kids decided this would never do.  "You can be a superhero!" Big C decided.  "Yes!" Mercy shouted, and she ran and got her special blue blanket that she sleeps with most nights.  "Here.  This can be your cape, Mommy!" she announced.  I tied it around my neck and posed for the camera.

Then I asked, "What kind of superhero am I?" 

"You can be The Bedtime Superhero, Mommy!" Mercy shouted, "Because you are the best at tucking people in at night!"

My hormonal heart melted, and I bent to give her a quick hug.

"Yes," Big C announced, "and here is your wooden spoon to spank people who get out of bed!"  He dug around in my utensil jar and brought me a wooden spoon.

I had to laugh.  "Uh, thanks, Bud.  Way to ruin the mood."  I grinned at him.  "Can't I have some other superhero thing to use, instead?"

"Here!"  Liberty came running with a green plastic cup.  "You can carry the night-night drinks to thirsty children!"

That is how my Halloween costume morphed into my every night costume, and I gained a new title: The Bedtime Superhero! 
Hey, somebody's got to do it, and I'm glad it gets to be me!
Suppose you are pregnant.  What a fun surprise!  How would you tell your friends and family?  How would you tell your husband? 

Those of you who are lucky enough to own a blog could simply announce it in a post:  I am pregnant. 

There, that got the job done.

But how boring is that?  (I mean, other than the news itself, of course.)  No, Post Announcing will never do.

Facebook makes it easier, because then you can quietly post a photo of your home pregnancy test and wait for the reactions.

Possibly a better way to get the word out is to change your profile picture to your baby's ultrasound picture.  That way, if anyone misses the original posting, four months later when they finally notice your tiny profile pic while scrolling through their news feed, they'll quickly jerk the scrolling to a stop, crawl back up the page and squint at it for a bit.  What is that?  Then they'll click on your name to enlarge the photo to confirm, yes, that really is an ultrasound picture.  (Good thing the ultrasound technician thought to label it "baby.")  Then they'll wonder, "How long that has been there without my noticing?  Will I look like a terrible friend if I congratulate her now after that picture has been there for who knows how long?"  You may cause a slight panic attack in your more prone-to-worrying friends, but hey, at least you'll get the word out, right?

When I found out I was pregnant with Liberty almost seven years ago during an annual doctor's check-up, I was flabbergasted to say the least.  Later that afternoon at work, I couldn't keep it secret, and I told everybody in my department and a few people I passed in the hallways.  I felt a little bad that I wasn't telling Jeremy or my family first.  After all, Jeremy had a lot to do with it and would have a lot more to do because of it, but I just couldn't keep the news to myself.  I ended up leaving work slightly earlier than usual so I could prepare for the big reveal.

First I stopped off at a Hallmark store (because really, if Hallmark can't figure out how to say it, it doesn't need to be said, right?)  I found the perfect card with a picture of an adorable teddy bear on the front.  The inside said, "Congratulations!  I heard a little someone new is headed your way."  I signed it "Surprise!  Missy" and tucked it back into it's envelope.  While I was in the store, I noticed a little Willow Tree figurine of a father bent over a newborn in his lap.  It called to me.  When I purchased it, the cashier put it into a box labeled "New Dad."  Oh yeah, that's perfect, I thought!

Next I stopped off at the grocery store to pick up some ingredients for Jeremy's favorite meal -- I have no memory of what that was anymore -- and I drove home to cook.  When Jeremy walked in the door of our apartment, his plate was already set and the card and statue strategically placed nearby.  "Hello!"  I greeted him with a kiss, helped him take his coat off, and invited him to sit down.  He thought all this strange, so he hesitated, standing behind his chair.  "What's going on?" he asked suspiciously. 

"What do you mean?" I innocently inquired.

"You're acting funny.  What's going on?"

"Nothing's going on.  Just sit down, and I'll serve your food."

He glanced down at his plate and noticed the statue.  He stared at it for thirty seconds.  Then he regarded me for a few more seconds.  "Are you pregnant?"

"What?  Why do you ask that?"

He pointed at the statue sitting on the table.

When I found out I was pregnant with Mercy, I planned to come up with some spectacular way of telling Jeremy, but it turned out that I was mad at him for something when he came home, and so after a few lines of opening conversation I snarled, "You'd better get your act together, because you're a dad again!"

"What?" he snapped back at me.  "Are you trying to tell me you're pregnant?"

"Yes I am!" I retorted, "So you'd better straighten up!"

I don't actually recommend this way of telling your husband.  It did not seem to garner excitement or a sense of anticipation when I tried it out, but you may have better luck with it.

Last month, Jeremy was due back from a business trip, and I sat on the couch trying to think of something unique and inexpensive that would give him the clue when he arrived home.  That's when that scene from Lady and the Tramp popped into my mind where Jim Dear is handing out cigars to everyone to announce his baby.   That's it! 

I ran downstairs to Jeremy's cute boxes stash.  (Jeremy has a thing about boxes.  If the box is smaller than a certain size, he has a hard time throwing it away because it's just too cute.  So, his cute boxes have been banished to his otherwise spotless office where they are stacked neatly in one corner of the room.)  I found the perfect box -- a cell phone box with a lid that flipped open from the side like a cigar box.  I took it upstairs and grabbed a sheet of construction paper to cut into long rectangles and roll into cigars.  Then I wrote "It's a boy!  Or maybe it's a girl!" on tiny strips of paper and tied them to the cigars with blue and pink yarn.  That should do the job, I decided. 

And it did.

What a strange day this has been.  It all started last night...

We were eating salad picked fresh from my friend Calle's garden for supper.  I had rinsed each leaf individually, but apparently I missed a chunk of dirt hidden in the fold of one of the lettuce leaves.  That leaf ended up on my plate, and when I chomped down on it, the clump of dirt resisted my bite.  Pain scorched through my top and bottom molars just in front of my wisdom teeth, and I couldn't finish my supper.

Poor little Mercy Jane had been feeling fine yesterday afternoon, so I planned for her to attend school today.  About twenty minutes into her bedtime last night, she started coughing again, and whining in her sleep, and coughing, and whining.  Around three in the morning, I carried her to my bed so that I wouldn't have to stumble to her room every fifteen minutes to help her calm down.

She slept until 10:30 this morning.  She obviously needed it from lack of sleep the night before.  What was strange, though, was that Liberty -- my morning girl -- also did not wake up until around 10:45.  She left her bed and sluggishly joined us in my bed.  Neither of them wanted anything to eat, even after sleeping for so long, and I wasn't so hungry myself so we stayed quietly lounging/dozing for another forty minutes or so.  Definitely a strange start to the morning, and I wondered to myself if Liberty was getting sick, and if I needed to take Mercy to the doctor or if it was simply a cold.  This whole time, I haven't been able to catch her with a fever.  It's all just congestion and whiny-ness, but only at night.

Around 11:30, we all forced ourselves out of my big bed and ate bowls of granola splashed with milk.  That was when I realized that searing pain in my molars had not diminished.  I couldn't eat my cereal.  Tonguing the offending tooth brought more pain, and I tried to examine it in the bathroom mirror.  Did it look darker in the middle than my other teeth?  Could it be a cavity that was exacerbated by the chunk of dirt at supper time yesterday?  I decided to call the dentist.  (Mainly because we were supposed to have tacos for supper tonight, and they are my favorite.)  Thankfully, the dentist could fit me in at 3:15.

We went to pick up from preschool our friend who I babysit every afternoon.  Sometime between the bowl of cereal and getting dressed, both Liberty and Mercy had perked up and were laughing, smiling and jumping around with no signs of sickness anywhere, so I didn't worry about infecting our friend.  I needn't have worried anyway.  Little T kept to herself, choosing to color quietly at the table rather than play Lady and The Tramp with Liberty and Mercy.  That was definitely a strange occurrence.  The three of them are usually the three musketeers.  After a while, T went down for a nap, and the other two girls sat at the dining room table putting together their fake gingerbread houses for our town's annual gingerbread house decorating contest.

Finally, it was time to go to the dentist.  I had alternated between eagerness to get the pain to stop and fear at what it might take to get the pain to stop all afternoon.  You know what the dentist told me after poking and prodding his way around?  I had pulled a tendon in my tooth.

Say what?  I've never heard of that before.  It's like a sports injury.  Or a workers comp claim.  My tooth was injured in the line of duty.  Apparently, that clump of dirt had briefly pushed my tooth sideways, stretching the tendon that holds the tooth in place.  The tendon immediately pulled the tooth back to where it belonged, but now that tendon needs time to heal.  Poor heroic tendon, injured in the line of duty.  Sacrificing itself without a second thought, and all for the good of just one in the army of teeth chomping voraciously every day.  What a tendon!  Not all tendons are as brave, you know, so I'm very thankful for mine.

Continuing to unwrap my gifts from God today:

7.  A wonderfully gray and blustery day, perfect for staying home from school and snuggling under the covers.

8.  The happy playfulness of my girls with each other, and their sweet attitudes and helpfulness to me all day.

9.  My potentially serious cracked tooth or root canal (in my own mind) turned out to be a heroic tendon that saved the day and only needs a few days to recuperate on its own.

10.  The children's pastor at my church hand-delivered the new quarter's Sunday School curriculum to my front door, saving me a trip and loads of time!  Thank you, Brian!  That was wonderful.

11.  Mercy is obviously feeling much, much better!
So.  I've been reading Ann Voskamp's blog for a few months now. (Because she sends me emails whenever a new post is up.  Anyone who doesn't do that, I rarely get to read no matter how much I want to. *cough* PJ *cough* Suanna)  And I've been pressed again and again in my spirit to start recording the daily gifts God gives me the way Ann does with her 1,000 Gifts List.

I finally started today; the day that Mercy woke us all up with freakish sounds at two in the morning because she couldn't inhale due to congestion, and Jeremy left the house at 5:30 in the morning to catch a flight out to Washington state for a business trip.  The day the girls and I stayed home from church because poor Mercy feels awful, and I had to give my Sunday School class away to another teacher for the morning.  The day I needed to start noticing the good gifts He's constantly giving me.

Here are the gifts I've noticed so far from God.

1. Liberty's exuberant morning happiness as she snuggled her wiggly body as closely as possible to mine under the warm, downy covers this morning.

2. Cocoa covered almonds, mocha-almond granola bars, and throat-stinging apple cider breakfasts.

3. Jetted garden tubs filled with mountains of frothy bubbles that occupy little girls so I can spend some much needed time alone with God.

4. Sunlight sparkling through our leaded glass front door and rainbows painted all over my living room this sunny morning.

5. The cutest lisping sound Liberty's voice makes now that she's missing a top tooth.  I could listen to her forever.

5. Large fireplace hearths that serves as a stage for multiple singing, dancing and acting performances on a daily basis.

6. A soft comfy couch - given to us by friends - that provides an excellent getting-well spot for my resting Mercy Jane.
Jeremy and I have been watching the presidential debates together, the first one with our children.  Four year old Mercy is 100% for Barack Obama, and six year old Liberty is 100% for Mitt Romney.  Jeremy and I grin at each other and ask the girls questions.  "Why do you like him more than the other guy?"

Liberty insists Governor Romney has the best ideas for our country and he wants to do what is right.  Mercy tells us just as emphatically that President Obama is the best one, and no one else should try to be the president when he already is -- that's simply not nice!  Neither one of them will budge from their position.

While I listened to the second debate full of binders and Big Bird, I heard Obama accuse Romney of wanting to cut government funding to Planned Parenthood which offers free mammograms and cervical cancer screenings to women who cannot afford to pay for them (see first 30 seconds of video clip below).

I listened, and I frowned to myself, recalling vaguely somewhere in the back of my mind that Planned Parenthood does not actually provide mammograms and cervical cancer screenings to anyone at all.  Now where had I heard that?

The next day, my friend and I did some research.  Okay, Allie did the research while I asked her questions.  Is that better?  And here is what she found.  After the President's comments at the debate, a group called Live Action investigated Planned Parenthood's claims about mammograms and found that the organization does not -- not anywhere in the United States -- perform mammograms or cervical cancer screenings.  None.  Anywhere.  What the organization does instead is direct women to the state funded program already in place and already being funded by our tax dollars.  Here's the link to that investigation.

My friend Allie was astonished at this finding.  She is part of a women's group that annually raises money to donate to women-related cause.  Up until this past February, they always donated their proceeds to the Susan B. Komen Foundation which supports breast cancer research.  However, last year, Komen quit sending money to Planned Parenthood because they realized PP was simply sending women to other places for anything having to do with breast cancer.  Why should Komen support them when Komen's focus is on breast cancer only?  However, Allie's group did not realize the facts behind Komen's decision, and they chose not to donate their raised funds to the Komen Foundation because they assumed the Foundation's break with Planned Parenthood affected women wanting mammograms.  Here's a link to the research the Susan B. Komen Foundation did when making their decision to drop funding to Planned Parenthood.

With this startling new fact in hand, Allie and I wondered, where can women go who do not have insurance or who are unable to pay for screenings they desperately need?  So, we researched again.  Okay, okay, SHE researched again while I sat back and cheered her on.  Hey, moral support is a big deal, okay?  Here's what we found.  The CDC (Center for Disease Control) a service of the US government and funded by tax-payers, is already providing mammograms and cervical cancer screening to millions of under-insured or unemployed or low income women.  The Susan G. Komen Foundation is very actively seeking out organizations to support financially that provide these services to the same women who cannot afford it, and they have a list of them available for anyone looking.  Also, there is an organization called Pink Campaigns that travels with their mobile unit providing free screenings to groups of people at a time and giving classes and other education on early detection signs and prevention.  Locally, there are many hospitals, churches, businesses, etc. who are initiating events like this one to help women in need.

For me, the bottom line turned out to be that President Obama lied during the debate -- cutting tax-payer dollars to Planned Parenthood will not affect women wanting free mammograms or cervical cancer screenings at all.  If a voter's only concern is that mammograms and cervical cancer screenings be available to anyone who needs them, then they should be happy to know that tax-payers are already funding the CDC (Center for Disease Control), an organization that actually IS providing those services that Planned Parenthood is not.

If the reviews of my children can be trusted -- and, oh yes, I think they can -- then I am no less than a culinary genius.  What?  Is that a horn tooting?

Exhibit A - Breakfast (I've named it cinnamon yogurt with apples because I'm creative like that.)
I spooned organic vanilla greek yogurt into bowls, swirled in some cinnamon and sprinkled beautiful cinnamon on top for effect, then served it with sliced gala apples to be used as edible utensils.  Liberty has since begged to be served this for breakfast on her birthday.  Definitely a score for me!

 Exhibit B - Lunch (spaghetti squash with "sauce" -- feel free to help me name this.)
I bravely tried the timed bake setting on my oven since I would be out right up until lunch time, AND IT WORKED!  I didn't mess it up!  (That alone should earn me Culinary Genius status.)  I set the oven to turn on and off while I was out, and I prayed that the house wouldn't burn down.  Then I placed a whole, uncut spaghetti squash on a baking sheet, and baked it at 375 for one hour.  I returned home after the oven had shut off, but before it had cooled down.  I cut the squash in half, scraped out the seeds, used a fork to scratch the flesh out into noodles and set them onto our plates.  Then I chopped up two ripe tomatoes from my friend's garden, one medium onion, and one clove of garlic and sauteed them all in the skillet along with some dried oregano and basil.  It. Was. A. Maze. Zing.  Amazing, I tell you.  I didn't even need my children's opinions to decide that, but they also agreed and asked for seconds.

Truthfully, I'm not posting this because it is blog-worthy, but because I want to remember these recipes.  My brain gave up on me long ago, so it is with great humility that I accept this title -- and maybe with just a wee bit of bragging.
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No, that would take too long; let me sum up.

It has been a year since I first received word that my grandpa was in failing health.  Six months passed while I knew he was dying, and willing my heart to say goodbye was hard.  My posting slowed and stayed confined to silly things, ignoring the deeper grief inside.  In March, my grandpa passed on, and while I know the last thing he would have suggested would be for me to tie a black ribbon around my blog and observe a few months of silence, that's what my heart required.  Who can write when the ache is so sharp?  Words do not approach feelings so deep.

This summer, Jeremy and I decided to enroll both little girls in school for the fall, and I spent those hot months playing as hard as I could with my daughters.  I wanted nothing to distract me from soaking in my family and making sure they had soaked in all I wanted them to of me before I was no longer their all-day influence.  I dropped out of almost every activity, committee, and responsibility I had taken on and simply rejoiced in being.  Sunshine beckoned.  The blog sat silent, knowing its place.

August ended.  Liberty and Mercy tripped off to school, swinging their lunch bags and waving wildly.  "Goodbye!  Goodbye!"  I made a plan full of organization and full-time writing to utilize the school day hours.  Excitement thrilled me; changes always effect me so -- a whole new life!  I wondered if I was up to all the discipline required to make it work.

The phone rang bringing with it an unexpected detour.  Would I like to babysit full-time?  I've thought of that path many times in the past, sometimes even taking a few steps but never pursuing it.  Would I like to babysit?  Uh, maybe.  Let's see how it goes.

So I began babysitting a precocious little three-year-old, but my brain and heart had already anticipated the plan full of organization and full-time writing, and it struggled to switch gears with me.  Several weeks passed while I tried to pull my brain back to the present, but it stubbornly ran ahead expecting to sit down and WRITE at any minute.  It would not readjust itself into the current time.  How do you capture a wayward head?  I finally had to say, "No.  Babysitting is not for me.  Not at this time, anyway.  I'll wait while you find someone else."

And a funny thing happened while I pondered why exactly this babysitting wasn't working.  I remembered my old days with my little girls and all the fun we had (okay, all the fun I had) playing school.  I remembered the curriculum I wrote and the crafts I came up with.  I remembered the thrill of watching their eyes light up with acquired knowledge and listening to them repeat learned information when I was no longer feeding it to them.  I remembered the schedule and the organization as well as the natural flexibility of the days.  I remembered how much I loved teaching official "school" at the dining room table and how much I loved sneaking "school" in when they had no idea they were learning: on nature walks, in the grocery store, at garage sales, in the library.  This babysitting wasn't working because I was trying to live my new adult-on-her-own life with a little kid trailing along behind, and it just doesn't fit that way.  That has never been God's design because children are too important.

Since I have said "No," I do not know how much longer I will be babysitting, but still I sat down to reorganize my days.  I pulled out the old curriculum and crafts and scribbled out items that needed be placed into our new weekly schedule.  Monday marked the first day of the new "school" year for the two of us, and today was the second.  We're already off to a bang-up start! 

And now you are all caught up.  :-)
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The time was 4:36 p.m.  Having accomplished all my chores for the day and after reading aloud all 37 books the girls brought home from the library today (some of them twice), I felt I had earned a short break before starting supper.  Since we recently acquired bunk beds over the weekend, and since any new household items automatically becomes a plaything until the novelty wears off, I mentioned that the girls might like to go play "Castle" using their new bunk beds.  To facilitate the experience, I even pulled out some sparkly pink curtains that I intend to permanently fasten in some way around their beds.  I tucked the curtains temporarily beneath the top mattress and allowed them to hang down around the bottom mattress to form a boudoir worthy of a princess (or two) in the bottom bunk.

With the two girls happily exclaiming over their new castle, I felt it was now safe to gather a throw pillow or two and stretch out on the couch in the living room for ten minutes of peace before starting supper.

It was not safe to do so.

Mercy came prancing into the living room as though she were flying.  "I'm Suuuuperhero Merrrrrcy!" she announced and struck a Mighty Mouse pose -- chin up, shoulders back, chest out, hands on hips -- near my pillowed head.

My eyes had not even had time to close.  "Mmm, hi, Superhero Mercy," I greeted her quietly.

"Hi, Mommy!  Our princess curtains fell down!"


"And I am Suuuuuuperhero Merrrrrcy!"

Aha.  "That means you can fix it, Superhero Mercy."

In a cartoon announcer voice she answered, "Yes!  I can!  With the help of...  SuuuuuuuperMommy!"

When did she get old enough for this stuff?

This was read at my grandpa's funeral ~

I am just one out of forty-seven kids, grandkids and great grandkids, and being one who lived away from Illinois (home base) most of my life, I always expected there to be a “getting reacquainted period” before my relationships with extended family could pick up again, but with Grandpa there never had to be.  As soon as I walked in the door, EVERY SINGLE TIME, he waited with open arms and a greeting so full of love, I couldn’t help but know I was incredibly special to him.  Long distance phone calls with Grandpa also gave me that special feeling.    

He filled me with laughter.  When I was a teenager on vacations from New Jersey, we would watch the news together on TV, snuggled on the couch, his arm around my shoulders.  He would mute the sound, and together we would make up newsworthy items that the anchor woman must be talking about.  We would keep it up as straight-faced as possible until one of us would dissolve into snorts of laughter.  Grandpa usually snorted first, for the record.

After my family moved back to Illinois and I’d come home on summer breaks from college, Grandpa and I used to listen to his old records and waltz around the living room together to crazy songs like “ShotGun Boogy.”  Sometimes at night, I would cuddle up with him and ask him questions, and he would tell me stories of how he and Grandma met – how she not-so-subtly chased him down and fed him until he just had to marry her. 
He kept his house open for anyone and everyone.  When my boyfriend, Jeremy, wanted to live closer to me for the summer, Grandpa offered his home.  The two of them became best buddies, and my life is better because of the things Grandpa taught Jeremy those two summers (including, but not limited to, how to make the world’s best mashed potatoes).

Speaking of food, one of my favorite memories is when several of us young cousins spent a week playing practical jokes on Grandpa.  Towards the end of the week, we decided to make a sandwich for him as a “truce.”  We mixed every condiment and spice we could find in the kitchen and smeared it on the bread.  Then we piled the sandwich high with ham and cheese and tomatoes, pickles, onions, etc.  We cut the sandwich diagonally and added chips to the plate before we presented it to him.  Then we all sat down to watch him eat.  He relished every bite, much to our disappointment.  Then he thanked us and said, “That was really good.  What did you put on it?  Grey POOP-on?”  The crowd of cousins dissolved into giggles around him.

My grandpa always made me feel special, but he did much more than that.  He made EVERYONE around him feel special because HE was special.

I love you, Grandpa.  You lived what love is.  
Waaaaah, the anguished wail pierced the air just before three year old Mercy Jane came running out to me from the toy room holding her eye, her light brown pageboy haircut bouncing adorably with every step.  "Liberty poked me in the eye!" she complained.  Her fake-sounding cries continued on a monotone note, while tiny bits of tears dotted the corners of her eyes. 

From the toy room a voice called out defensively, "I wasn't trying to hurt her, Mommy!"  (Translation:  Maybe this will get me out of being in trouble.)

I bent to examine Mercy's eye -- no damage.  "Liberty!" I called out.

A second daughter came running from the toy room on lanky legs.  "I didn't mean to hurt her!" she insisted with arms stretch wide to emphatically accentuate her point.

"Okay, if it was an accident, then what do you do?"

My five year old heaved a heavy sigh and breathed out, "See if she's okay..."

I waited.

Nothing happened.  The two sisters stood side by side, one still whining, one frowning fiercely.

"Liberty," I prompted, "how is your sister doing?"

She glanced over at her sister.  "Um, I'm guessing either Good or Not Fine."

I blinked, then stifled a laugh.  'Good or Not Fine' I suppose she's right... "Try again, Sister," I told her.

She sighed again, not so heavily this time, and placed an arm around her sister.  "Mercy, I'm sorry for hurting you.  How are you doing; are you okay?"

"Not good."  Mercy replied, then she sniffed and added in a wavering voice, "I could feel better, but I need the princess crown," she pointed at the crown on Liberty's head.

Ah, emotional blackmail starts early, I see.

She didn't get away with it.
When I was a little girl, we used to eat ham and beans for three or more meals a week.  This was because it was cheap, and we were poor.  (Although, I didn't realize it at the time.)  (My dad worked two or three jobs while putting himself through college and supporting our family.)  Anyway, we ate ham and beans until I just couldn't stand the thought of any more ham or beans ever.


But now, it's close to thirty years later, and I am just beginning to look back on my years full of ham and beans with fondness, yea, even...  longing?  Can that be longing, I feel?

On Saturday, I found myself culling the internet for the very best ham and beans recipe I could find, and this is what I chose.  Well, nevermind, I was going to link to it, but then I realized that I had changed it so much from it's original that the poor author would probably not want my version linked with his and forever desecrating it.

Hold on a second.  My tootsies are freezing.  I've got to get a blanket.

Mmm, that's much better.

So, here's how I made my ham and beans.

1. Soaked 1/2 pound of kidney beans overnight in a bunch of water in my cold crock pot.  (I used 1/2 pound instead of a whole pound like all the recipes called for because we always have leftover soup that lasts for days that turn into weeks that turn into months that turn into years, until we finally freeze it.  And then several years later we chop our frozen soup into smaller chunks and feed it to the garbage disposal.  And then we feel guilty over all the food we've wasted when there are starving people right here in our city who could have gotten several meals out of it if only the soup kitchens and food pantries would allow us to bring in our possibly contaminated leftovers instead of demanding only non-perishable items.)

Where was I?  Oh yes, I only used 1/2 pound of beans.  I thought it would be more appropriate considering our soup eating habits.  Ahem.

2. The next morning, I added 1/2 an onion, chopped.  Some basil - no idea how much, uh, maybe a couple teaspoons?, some diced ham slices that I had leftover from another meal (next time I make this, I'll use better ham), approximately one tablespoon of brown sugar, a few shakes of cayenne pepper and some salt and pepper.

3. I turned the crock pot on high and went to church.  (This was an accident.  I meant to turn it on low since we'd be eating the meal for supper.)

4. At lunch time, I returned home from church, noticed the temp on the crock pot and turned it down to low.  Then I tasted the mixture and decided to add another tablespoon of brown sugar and some more cayenne pepper - the rest of the shaker, anyway, which probably added up to 1/4 teaspoon at the most.  Oh yeah, I also added some salt (while Jeremy protested since the taco meat I had made on Friday night was WAY too salty for our taste.  What can I say?  I win some, I lose some.)

This time I won - the soup came out perfectly wonderful, not too salty and not too bland, and the amount of soup worked perfectly for us wanna-be soup-eaters.

I'll definitely make this again.  Maybe next year.
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Mercy just walked up to me out of nowhere and said, "Mama, I don't want an apple."

I just looked at her, not sure where she was going with this, and she just looked back at me.  Finally, she repeated, "Mama, I don't want an apple."

"Okay." I said agreeably, after all, it's not snack time or a meal time.  I wasn't planning on feeding her anything anyway.

"I, hold on, let me think a little," she tapped her finger thoughtfully on her lips three times and gazed up at the ceiling.  "Oh!  Yes!  I've got it!  I want candy."

The whole conversation was so obviously premeditated and staged to look spontaneous that I burst out laughing. 

"Momma!  Stop it."  She said persuasively.  "Stop laughing at me.  I really want candy."

I really want to start blogging again, but the writer's block has me locked in it's dirty little paws and won't let me go.  So, if you'll hold on and let me think a little, I'll push a little harder on the keys of this rusty old keyboard and start posting again. 

Happy new year, everybody!