Mom calls them God winks. Sometimes I nod my head in agreement and other times I roll my eyes in my lack of understanding. But if I take the time to reflect, doesn’t He have a hand in it all?
We were in her favorite thrift spot, a little place in Lakeside called Aggie’s Attic. I was holding Mon Amour captive in my arms, surrounded by breakables and looking for kitchenware to cross off my wishlist.
Mon Cœur was with Mooma (Mom) and had found a musical figurine. Mooma came to me and showed me her turkey and other fall decor she found. She was so excited.
And then she put on her serious face and showed me the figurine and told me the story. At first I had a stern face because, “I’ll be damned if one more item to dust comes in the house.” Especially a breakable. And then I melted. I teared up and I gave in.
MC had pointed to the figurine, a little angel sleeping on a cloud with another, older angel standing watch above. She told Mooma, “That’s my sister, and that’s me,” as she pointed to the sleeping angel and then the standing one.
My sister and me
MC got it home and wanted it to be on the pie chest with Millie’s ashes. So I put it there. She asked to hear it, so I wound it up.
MA would hear it from the other room and come and just sit and watch it turn and play. And then he’d sign “more.” A more serene MA I haven’t seen. He listened, then he twirled, then he signed more. More. More. And when my heart strings couldn’t take it any more, we moved on.
The tune was unfamiliar, and a little haunting. I had no idea where to look. Finally I turned the figurine over and spun it looking for a sticker.
Stand by me
The sticker read “stand by me.” My mind immediately went to a beloved oldie by Ben E. King:
…If the sky that we look upon Should tumble and fall Or the mountains should crumble to the sea I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no, I won’t shed a tear Just as long as you stand, stand by me…
I knew this familiar song was not the same tune as the music box on the figurine so I dug a little deeper. I found on hymnary.com the lyrics to a hymn of the same title by Charles Albert Tindley.
The melody plays from the music box and as the chords play, I’m not sure what it is. I feel all these complex and conflicting emotions come over me. Sadness. Calm. Regret. Peace. Wonder. Gratefulness.
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month. I am grateful to have this blog to keep Millie alive in our hearts and to let others know “you are not alone.”
To all who are missing a part of their family, who have a little one in Heaven – I stand by you and see you. Sending you hugs.
The first monarch butterfly I saw this summer was being devoured by a wasp. That was back in May, when we typically look for the caterpillars and welcome them as symbols of hope and rebirth. So much for that this year I told myself.
A couple of weeks ago we spotted a monarch butterfly, one of the only we’ve seen this season.
A week ago, Mon Cœur found a caterpillar.
Yesterday evening, among the bursting milkweed pods, we spotted no less than ten caterpillars varying in size- some who were probably days old and others that looked ready to make their chrysalis that evening.
It’s later than we expected, although still a welcome sign.
And timely, too. As summer cools down and a chill greets us in the morning, we’ve focused our reading theme on migration, and have a couple of short books about the monarchs’ migration to Mexico.
I told MC that I suppose when the caterpillars become butterflies they’ll journey to Mexico, too. She turned to me with incredulous eyes and a smile and said, “No way!”
I smiled back and said, “They absolutely will!”
Do you have any idea who the fuzzy friend is on this milkweed?
This year, on my birthday, I woke up early, got dressed up in a green and white striped dress, and headed into the kitchen. I put on my great grandmother’s half apron- black chintz cotton with pink flower print. I put on my happy music, and I began singing and dancing out loud to myself as I grated lemon peels, cracked eggs, sifted flour, and creamed sugar and butter together. I made myself the Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Cake my way with three tiers and blueberries.
Every year I wait silently, and I wonder why there’s no cake or celebration. I resolved to change my attitude and to celebrate my birthday this year by baking my own cake. I can’t be upset no one did anything when I didn’t make a big deal myself, and if I want my cake, I’ll make it.
For those of you who know me…you know this is a labor of love – I love to bake and I love to cook. It’s my love language. It is a joy to bake for others and it is a joy that I bestowed upon myself this year.
I chose a Lemon cake to make. Years ago, I had found this recipe and made it, using limoncello instead of water as part of the glaze. It’s a great summer cake, and it was even better drenched in that glaze. But since I don’t need any extra fun and I was sharing the cake with the family (read Mon Amour and Mon Cœur), I toned down the limoncello and tossed in some frozen blueberries instead. Blueberries are so fabulous with lemons anyway.
I was dancing away and then I heard pattering from my room. The littlest helper arrived to mix…we measured buttermilk together and began adding it alternating with the flour. Really, he just moved a kitchen chair and stood on it, marveling at the noise of the mixer and how it combined all of the ingredients.
Next I heard puttering from the other end of the house…another helper, still with sleep in her eyes and bed head hair, she stumbled into the kitchen wondering what was going on. Even though she has no idea – the smile she gives me every morning and the snugs I get when I first see her wake are my gift for the day. I smiled and said, “It’s my birthday – I’m baking a cake!” A huge smile lit her face up and she asked, “Can I help?” “Of course.” She has always loved to help me bake.
The recipe below was accessed online at foodnetwork.com (5/2010!), and adjusted by me. Enjoy!
makes 1 three tier cake (9 inch diameter)
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
granulated sugar- divided: 2 cups, ½ cup
4 large eggs, room temp
⅓ cup grated lemon zest (6-8 lemons)
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh lemon juice- divided: ¼ cup, ½ cup
¾ cup buttermilk, room temp
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups frozen blueberries
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour pans. Drop ½ cup of frozen blueberries into each pan.
2. Cream butter and 2 cups sugar with an electric mixer, until light & fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, add lemon zest.
3. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine ¼ cup lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mix alternately to batter – begin and end with flour. Did you remember those blueberries ? If you forgot, it’s not too late… plop them in here!
4. Divide batter evenly among pans. Smooth the tops, and bake for ~30 minutes, until tester comes out clean.
5. Allow cakes to cool 10 minutes on a wire rack.
6. Combine ½ cup granulated sugar with ½ cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves.
7. Remove one cake from its pan and place on plate. Spoon lemon syrup over the cake. Repeat with next two cakes. Allow cake to cool completely.
8. Make the glaze by whisking together sifted confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth. Pour over the top of the cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides.
Can be enjoyed fresh or can be frozen for later!
This cake turned out so lovely, and only survived a couple of days (such is the destiny of any sweet in this household), so I decided to make it again for Mon Amour’s baptism luncheon. Also, I had an abundance of buttermilk even though I bought the smallest container. I made his cake and froze it until the day before, then added the lemon syrup and glaze.
Prep work and tips:
With little helpers I always try to prep as much as I can by pre-measuring and mixing what I can before I invite them into the kitchen. I also remind myself, “There will be messes (or bêtises as MC calls them), and they can be cleaned up.”
Lemons: I zest and juice the lemons the day before and store in the refrigerator. I store the juice divided for the cake, syrup, and glaze.
(Side note: I just read that warming lemons in warm water before juicing gets the most juice out – I wish I had read that before! Hopefully I’ll remember that trick next time.)
Flour: I measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and place into one ball jar for little hands to dump and sift.
Eggs: I crack them and place in a ball jar to make adding (pouring) one egg at a time easier and shell free.
Liquid: If it will fit into one of my measuring cups, I always measure and mix ingredients there. Less clean up, and easier pour for little hands (hello handle!). Alternatively, Ball jars usually have measurements on the side – I might measure in there if I need a different measuring space.
You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.
Fred Rogers was a unique individual – soft spoken, calm, intentional. He was a Presbyterian minister and was given special permissions to make his show, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and his audience of children his ministry.
I find this especially interesting, and I don’t ever remember religion being an overt part of the show. Fred was focused on modeling and showcasing what it is to be a good human, to be a neighbor.
I took a deep dive recently into his world through a stack of books available at my local library. Last year as a preschool teacher, I strived to demonstrate patience, to say the right words, and to cultivate an atmosphere of love and kindness like Rogers did. And yet, it was a very daunting and difficult task.
When I found myself failing, I reminded myself that he was looking into the camera lens, talking to millions of children in a one to one scenario; whereas, I can not do the same with a class of eight students who are all tugging at the hems of my skirt for a tissue or to tell me a completely unrelated story while we are reading a book aloud, or ask me a question, or let me know that Susie hit him upside the head with the coffee maker in dramatic play area, or to tell me that Davey is no longer her best friend and he is not invited to her birthday party.
Despite not being able to be Mr. Rogers, or to come even close, there are some things I can do…like listen and wait. Be present.
Mr. Rogers was a complex man, and I enjoyed reading and learning about him. Reading these books brought back memories of childhood, memories of Daddy’s graduation from Old Dominion (where Fred Rogers gave the commencement speech). He has so many quotables so I will leave you with a few.
Do any of these quotes speak to you, or do you have a Rogers quote to share that’s not included here? I’d love to hear from you!