Thursday, May 27, 2010

Little Thoughts on Little House

(" Laura, Mary and their good old bulldog, Jack", by Ruthie)

One of our favorite new pastimes while traversing the busy streets of Northern Virginia is listening to audio books. We have been going through the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder; favorites of mine as a child. It is so entertaining to hear them read, and to listen now from my perspective as a grown-up, and a wife and mother. I love that my children are hooked on these wonderful stories; as soon as I crank the engine I hear, “Mom, can we listen to ‘Little House?’” My children are honing their listening skills while learning about being God-fearing, hard-working members of a loving family. I am learning too.

The Little House books are truly amazing. Not only do we follow a Pioneer family as they grow and move and face hardships, setbacks and joys along the way, we learn how to build a log house, how to make butter, and how to tap a tree to get maple syrup. We see Laura’s struggles to be a “good girl” as she feels her temper rise or faces temptations to disobey Pa and Ma. We sense her rivalry with Mary, the “good girl” who always obeys and always says the right thing. We learn of Mary’s blindness and how Laura becomes her “eyes”-describing everything and becoming a keen observer of all she sees for her sister, a skill that undoubtedly shaped her into the detailed, descriptive writer she became.

We have become wrapped up in the stories. Last week Laura’s good old bulldog Jack died- described in heart-wrenching detail, and we all cried together. He was such a good old dog, Jack. We cheered aloud when Pa made it home after being lost for several days in a fearsome blizzard. We laughed at Laura and Mary chasing lightning-quick prairie dogs, trying so hard to catch them before they popped back in their dens.

I am impressed over and over with the simplicity of the Ingall’s life, the hard work and resourcefulness that flows from every chapter, every page. I am impressed by the shining joy the little family found in the simple, small things, such as fiddle music, one piece of perfect hard candy, a clean, bright-checked tablecloth spread on the table, a scrubbed-clean kitchen floor.
I am humbled by their resilience and hope as they bounced back from the shattering loss of their wheat crop, or the loss of their land to the government. I am amazed at how everything they had was used- if they slaughtered an animal, every single part and particle of it was used- nothing was wasted. They made aprons out of old curtains, and curtains out of old sheets. They made their own soap, repaired worn out shoes, and patched worn clothing.

The girls were hard workers, helping Ma with simple chores all day long- rarely complaining, but finding pleasure in the way the dishes squeaked as they were dried with a fresh dishcloth, or the neatness of the smooth bedspreads after they made the beds. Precious playtime was savored, whether it was just wading in a cool creek, sliding down a haystack, or watching the prairie grasses wave in the fresh, wild wind. At Christmas they were overjoyed with one shiny penny, or one colorful piece of candy, or a doll named Charlotte made of rags and yarn.

I long to be content in such things. I want to smile (or at least grimace) at the dishes and find joy in a shiny clean countertop or a crisp folded sheet. I want to be a better steward of the resources given to me- to turn away from the lazy wastefulness that is my tendency, but rather to make the most of what I have, repurpose items, all the while being thankful, whether it be for leftovers, hand-me-downs, or an old yet functioning computer.

I want to sit quietly in the evenings, with my precious family around me, satisfied with my days work. Though it be mundane, though it be the same thing I did the day before, though my knees may ache and my hands may be rough and cracked; I want to tap my feet to the night-time fiddle music, and fall asleep smiling at the playing of the crickets. These are the lessons taught by Ma and Pa and their little family. That and how to pickle pig’s feet, build a sod house, and save a crop from a ravenous horde of invading grasshoppers- which you just never know-might come in handy some day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

eat your hearts out, couponers!

The farmer's market is back in bidness. On Tuesday I got a pint of strawberries and three beautiful tomatoes for.....$16.15! No coupons! No discounts! No store savings! Just me, spending too much money for local produce. That was delicious, mouth-watering, and such a treat after months of tasteless tomatoes and pesticidal strawberries. Sigh. The price I pay to be a locavore in Alexandria, VA. (More like loco-vore.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


So the kids were awake a bit too early Saturday morning. I put them back to bed and I must have fallen asleep pretty hard. I woke up a little after seven, when Harris woke up. I went downstairs and Ruth and Mac were happily coloring at the dining room table. I walked into the kitchen and saw a clump of hair on the floor so I confronted Ruthie, thinking she had pulled out some of the hair in the ziploc bag from Harris's hair cut the other day. (I had already seen her playing in the bag and had told her to leave it alone.) Ruth said it was not his hair. Ok. So that meant it was her hair. What? Yes. Mac and Ruth got creative with the kid's safety scissors, and you can see Little Mr. Gappy above. While Ruthie was telling me about it, Mac walked up with that crazy gap in his bangs and I couldn't contain myself. It was so funny to imagine them cutting each other's hair. I saw a huge clump in the trash, and two different clumps in the play room, and I got two more clumps out when I brushed her hair a bit later; which means Ruthie cut a good bit of her own hair. The funny thing is you can't even tell. I think she just gave herself some nice layers. So now they know to only cut PAPER and APPROVED MATERIALS. And Ruthie must have a future in cosmetology. Well, I guess for women's haircuts, not so much men's.

I think cutting yourself or a siblings hair is sort of a rite of passage in childhood. I told this story to friends at a birthday party later this same day and they all had great stories of such haircuts.
Suzanne, who cut Harris's hair this week, was there, and I told her that the kids said "we just wanted to be like Miss Suzanne." She thought it was hilarious.

Do you have stories about crazy haircutting when you were a kid? Let's hear 'em. (I think I only ever cut a Barbie's hair. And she ended up basically buzzed. We called her Miss Shorn. Sad. She was formerly Tropical Barbie with long beautiful locks. Oh, and speaking of hair, I think I'm going to donate my hair to Locks of Love. It is the longest I have ever had it, but I am sick of it. Not sure Locks of Love would really want it though. I think it's kind of dead at the bottoms. Hmmm. We'll see.....I can see a letter from:

Locks of Love Inc.
1111 Hair Avenue
Hairrisonville, PA

Dear Ms. Hodges,
Thank you for the kind donation of your hair. Unfortunately, we were not able to use it for a wig or other hairpiece due to the funk-nastiness, crustification, and general unsatisfactory condition of the hair. Our criteria include a certain level of healthiness and vitality, color and thickness, which your hair just did not meet. We hope you will consult a hairologist, change shampoos, and please, please, for the love of Pete, never attempt to grow your hair long again. We again thank you for your thoughtfulness and selflessness in giving your hair to a worthy cause, but we regretfully return the aforementioned hair and hope you will find a good use for it. (Others have found redemption in weaving the rejected hair into a dog sweater, or a hanging plant holder, or even perhaps a tea cosy- all useful and practical items for which human hair is quite a choice material.) If you have any questions or comments, feel free to address them to me personally.


Harry M. Ann

National Museum of the Marine Corps

The museum was designed to reflect the famous image of the Marines raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi during the bloody battle of Iwo Jima.

The intimidating Drill Instructor, not happy with my shenanigans.

There were plenty of tanks and guns and jeeps and planes and helicopters, which the boys especially loved. Ruthie liked the life size representation of a Corpsman tending to a wounded Marine (didn't get a picture of it.)

Last Friday we headed down to Quantico to meet my friend Beth and her two boys at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Beth lives right around the corner and has spent alot of time in the museum so it was fun to have knowledgeable hosts to show us around. It was sort of a whirlwind tour with five kids in tow, and it was a busy day at the museum which made it hard to get around. It is a wonderful museum honoring the men and women of the Marine Corps, and we will definitely be back with Jay to check it out in more detail.

(Two great pictures that never were: one of all of us, and one of little 2 year old Ethan doing a pull-up in the boot camp exhibit. Missed it!)

There is also a wonderful wooded play ground and picnic area adjacent to the museum- it was the perfect place to eat lunch and let the kids play.

Monday, May 17, 2010

First Haircut for Harry

Harry needed a trim. I asked my friend Suzanne at Bible Study the other morning to do the honors since I heard that she does haircuts. She found some scissors and we put Harris in a high chair with some goldfish, and snip, snip, snip; Suzanne did a wonderful job. A nice little trim for the little boy. Suzanne is so sweet, she keeps the kids alot in the nursery at church and I feel like she really loves my children! She is also very crafty and creative- see that green sweater she has on? Yep. She knitted it. Suzanne is also a thrift store guru- I hope to be able to go thrifting with her soon. So- thanks Suzanne!

In the Merry, Merry Month of May

What have we been up to? Discovering a new park just a hop, skip and a jump from our neighborhood. We love it!

What else?
Getting moles cut off and weird skin things frozen off my body. That was fun. No pictures available (don't want to spoil your appetite). I just got back the results today- no cancer, thank you Jesus! One of my moles was special, and I didn't even know it. The doctor said it is a very rare type of mole called a "blue mole." How appropriate, blue being my favorite color.
Having all the pipes in our rental house redone because of leakiness- which means plumbers in our house four days a week, all day long. Sawing into drywall, mess mess and more mess, and now we have water that tastes like it's burnt, some huge holes in our walls that have to be repaired, but my sanity back. Well, as I wrote this the repairman arrived...bye bye sanity, hello drywall dust. (Choking gag)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Early Summer Rose

We have pink roses blooming beside our front porch. It is delicious to walk out the front door and catch their scent. Something is trying to eat them, as you can see by the leaves, but they seem to be blooming anyway. Ruthie is enamored of the blushing beauties. They are so fancy, and, oh, just PINK!

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Since we moved to this area I have been wanting to visit the town where I lived in middle school, before my Dad retired and we moved to Florida. Jefferson, Maryland is northwest of here, but hard to get to, we discovered, because of traffic. We made it though, and it was so fun to see the house where we lived and the rolling farmland surrounding it, not to mention the little main street of Jefferson, virtually unchanged in the 18 or so years since we left. I was a little nervous about going because I have this mental picture of how beautiful it was and I didn't want to see change and developments and cleared land and shopping centers. I was overjoyed to see it virtually the same, with a few minor changes. The area is just beautiful still, with green rolling pastures, farms here and there, and old stone houses surrounded by trees. My Dad chose this area to avoid the congested area in Northern Virginia where he worked, and I 'm so glad he did. It was and is really idyllic. My Dad has some better pictures on his camera which I forgot to upload...Whoopsies.

Here is the corrugated metal pipe tunnel up the road from our neighborhood. There used to be a sheep farm nearby where we would go look at the baby lambs in the spring. The farm buildings and some of the pasture is still intact, but we didn't see any sheep.

Our house! It is amazing how much the trees have grown in 18 years- we used to be able to see the whole house and we had problems with the winds that would blow so strongly on the unprotected hill. Now you can hardly see the house! To the left of the house you can see the Christmas trees we planted each year! We had burgundy shutters on the house- now all the gray is too bland, if you ask me.

Main street, Jefferson. So quaint and old world. One traffic light. We stopped to eat at the one restaurant, a pizza place. There were two old men sitting there who talked to the children and told us how they have lived in Jefferson their whole lives. They left but soon after I walked Mac next door to a Tractor/Hardware store to kill time while we waited for the pizza, and there were the two old men sitting in the Tractor Store.

We found our way up Mar-Lu Ridge, where my Mom and Dad had gone on Emmaus retreats and my brother and his friend used to go mountain biking. What a view- that is the Potomac River curving around a bend. The gap in the mountains in the distance is Harpers Ferry, WV, where John Brown did his thing and got hanged. It is also where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers converge.

The cross on Mar-Lu Ridge. Behind it is a chapel all made of windows. It is a wonderful place to worship. (It is a Lutheran retreat center, basically; hence Mar-Lu for Lutheran.)

From here we drove in to Frederick, the larger town where I went to school and took ballet. I took the rest of the pictures with Dad's camera so I have no pictures, but it was so neat to "drive to school" just like we used to- I even remembered the short cut. After all the sight-seeing the drive home was terrible- even though we were heading toward DC- I guess it doesn't really matter at rush hour. I'm glad we did it though- it brought back so many good memories of happy childhood times.

Birthday Boy!

We finally celebrated Harry's bday last week- a small party with our family, my Mom and Dad, and our landlord Mr. Fredette. I made a turtle cake, to go with his nursery theme, and it was really quick and easy as cakes go. Harris ate his cupcake in what seemed like a minute. He grabbed the whole thing in his hand and just devoured it. It was impressive.
He opened some presents, or I should say, Ruthie and Mac opened his presents for him, and you can see him standing up with one of his birthday cards. It was a fun little party for a fun little boy. I have to say it... I can't believe he's one already!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Spring at Mt. Vernon (Part Two)

Sorry if you dear readers are totally sick of pictures of us at Mt. Vernon. Every time we go we see different things and make happy memories that I want to record, so bear with me! We are not tired of it, in fact we have annual passes now so we can go as often as we want. It was a breezy beautiful day last week when we went with my parents. And what did we see, you might ask?

The beautiful mansion overhung with brilliant blue sky and puffy clouds...

A colorful stained glass window depicting President Washington listening to the Declaration of Independence being read...

Three generations of ladies in a blooming garden...

Bright purple Irises...

Grandparents enjoying their grandkiddos....

Stunning anemones...

The greenhouse and gardens...

Smiling faces on the grassy bluff of the Potomac...

And the blacksmith in his fiery workshop...Reminding me of the wonderful poem...
(there are supposed to be stanzas, but when I publish it squashes it all together, not sure why)
The Village Blacksmith
Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.
Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.
And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.
He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.
It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his haul, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose.
Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Manassas Battlefield

Last week we went with my parents to the Civil War battlefield at Manassas, or Bull Run if you were on the Union side of things. My Dad is knowledgeable about all things concerning the Civil War, and he really wanted to visit Manassas again. It is a beautiful place, in the rolling hills of Virginia, about an hour from where we live. The area has been preserved and is pretty much just the way it looked back when the battles (there were two battles at Manassas) took place. We took a walking tour of the battlefield and read about the movements of the troops, the tragedy that took place in the farmhouse, and how General Jackson got his famous nickname, "Stonewall Jackson."

This is a marker put up by the Georgia Infantry to mark their position in the battle.

Ruthie on one of the Confederate cannons. We later read that climbing on the cannons was not allowed. We apologize.
Papa's new nickname for Mac is "Cannon Boy."

Harris was so excited to sit on a cannon too.

The statue of Stonewall Jackson overlooking the field of battle.

" There stands Jackson like a stone wall."

This was the farmhouse where an 85 year old bed-ridden woman refused to leave as the troops advanced on her family's property. She was killed by artillery fire.

This is the Stone Bridge over Bull Run. Part of what is there now was there in 1861, but it was also partly wood and was burnt during the course of the fighting.

We hiked on the trail that led along Bull Run, a beautiful, quiet stream.

ADIEU O soldier,
You of the rude campaigning, (which we shared,)
The rapid march, the life of the camp,
The hot contention of opposing fronts, the long manoeuvre,
Red battles with their slaughter, the stimulus, the strong terrific
Spell of all brave and manly hearts, the trains of time through you
and like of you all fill'd,
With war and war's expression.
Adieu dear comrade,
Your mission is fulfill'd- but I, more warlike,
Myself and this contentious soul of mine,
Still on our own campaigning bound,
Through untried roads with ambushes opponents lined,
Through many a sharp defeat and many a crisis, often baffled,
Here marching, ever marching on, a war fight out- aye here,
To fiercer, weightier battles give expression.
-Walt Whitman