Blowleafers and Snooternoodles

Some folks sure make a big fuss over aliens.  I’m not talking about the illegal kind that are hopping fences or digging tunnels under the border.  I’m referring to the ones in flying saucers, the ones with the big heads who look for those crop circles that “mysteriously” appear in fields, some kind of signal that says “Land your spaceship here”.  Sorry I’m not buying it.  It’s utter nonsense.

On the other hand, I reckon if there were such creatures out there, they might find some similar markings in our hillside.  Now these markings would not be from any crop circle up here on our hillside.  We couldn’t get a healthy stand of crops or grass to grow on this hillside if our life depended on it, unless we would happen to chop all of our trees down.  We love our hundreds of trees and the shade they provide us, so we haven’t sacrificed them for the sake of any grass yet.

The leaves are the problem.  These hundreds of trees produce piles and piles of leaves, thousands of them.  Those dandy green hanger-ons waving on every tree in the spring and summer around here eventually crumple up and turn brown, turning our forest floor into a crunchy carpet.  Because we have so very many leaves, I usually start raking them in the fall, work through the winter, and about the time Easter rolls around each year I somehow get them to a manageable level.

The method is simple—burn them.  I’m still waiting for one of those geniuses to come up with an effective way to use all of these leaves for fuel to keep me warm in the winter and to keep the lights on.  Since I’ve not seen anyone come up with that yet, I reckon we’ll just keep ridding ourselves of them the old fashioned way by burning them.

The burning is what causes the temporary scars all around our hillside.  I have several locations that are somewhat cleared out in the trees that enables me to burn the leaves.  While I still have to carry loads of leaves a short distance, I generally try to burn them as close as possible to the area from which I am raking them.  These multiple burn piles cause the markings on our hillside and keep me from having to cart the leaves all over creation.  If the aliens come, they will see these large ashen circles from above spotting the landscape.

With yesterday being a beautiful spring Saturday morning, I got out of bed before the crack of dawn and commenced to taking care of our overpopulation of leaves.  I raked and hauled and hauled and raked using my typical method of filling an old plastic trashcan and hauling them to the burn pile.  I had been at this for some time when the little people inside the house began coming out of the woodwork, excited that Daddy had a blazing fire going strong outside.  I almost always get the parent of the day award for being the one who strikes a match under any ‘ole pile of leaves and sticks.  I guess that’s comparable to the times that Mommy gets the award when she’s in the kitchen making cookies or a cake.

After being at it for several hours and starting to feel cramps in my arms from raking, the kids were faithfully staying by my side, especially Olivia and Joshua.  Joshua has a real love for wanting to constantly throw stuff into the fire, so I really have to watch out for him.  Olivia does not seem so brave around the fire, which is really a good thing, but she wants to just stand around where I’m working and talk my ears off.

After I had already been working at it for more than half the day I was nearing an area in which my leaf blower would really come in handy.  I went to the garage and fetched it, and after a little bit of struggle I managed to get it fired up and roaring.  I used it to blow off our driveway and the steps leading up to the backyard, which are quite a challenge to clean out without the leafblower.

As I came to a stopping place on a portion of leaves that I was blowing, I shut off the leafblower when I saw Olivia approaching.  She was as happy as she could be seeing that I had shut the loud beast off, knowing that she could get back to talking.  She did.

Olivia looked at me so very intently and said, “Daddy, you got your blowleafer?”  Amused, I let her know that yes, I had been using my leafblower.  Olivia’s “miscommunication” reminded me of a time when some of our other “little people” have either had an inability to pronounce what they were trying to say, or just got it plain backwards.  The following happened a couple of years ago when Joshua was a little older than Olivia is now:

Katrina and the kids had made cookies one night, and the next day our oldest daughter Reagan was home spending the day with us.  After lunch, in their usual fashion, the kids wanted dessert.  Reagan had not been involved in the baking the night before, so she was unaware of the homemade cookies.  Joshua, in his most sincere voice, looked at Reagan and asked, “Reagan, do you want some snooternoodles?”  Reagan and I both looked at each other like he was crazy, and then finally figured it out.  They had made snickerdoodles.

Over the past several months, as Olivia has worked on her speaking skills, I’ve had to sometimes rely on the translator, Mommy, or even one of the other younger natives of our clan.  Many times I have looked Olivia in the eye and asked her, “Do you speak English?”  That usually gets a giggly response from others around.

Someday, when the aliens identify our ash pits from the sky and land here, we may have to send Olivia or Joshua out to speak with them first.  These aliens may encounter some variation in the English spoken around here and may be able to better relate to the kids than me.  I can even picture the kids bringing them in to the kitchen and offering them something to drink from the fridgalator.  Now that I think about it, I reckon my Southern drawl could also count as an additional language as well.  Perhaps we are more bilingual than I thought.

Written by David Steen, with God smiling, March 13, 2011

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Farewell to Soapy

Most of our Sunday had come and gone.  It was a leisurely one for a change, the way God intended it, our day of rest.  We had attended church that morning, come home and had a simple lunch, and then retreated to different parts of the house to rest.  Joshua, our two year old son, and Holly, our three year old daughter, were taking their naps.  Hannah and Bradley were watching an old Shirley Temple movie, Heidi, that I had checked out from the library.  I took advantage of this calm time and settled in for an afternoon nap, which was rare for me.  I knew that I should get some rest, as we were on the verge of having our ninth child, Olivia, at any moment.

A couple of hours passed, and I woke up and strolled down the stairs to make some late afternoon coffee.  The kids were still asleep and in TV land, and Katrina had retreated to the hot tub.  It had been unseasonably warm all weekend, especially for the second day of March, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  I poured myself a cup of coffee and went out on the porch, taking in the view overlooking the valley.  I was in my happy place without a care in the world.

A scream of terror penetrated our exterior walls and entered my ear canal as I finished my cup of coffee.  I sauntered through the front door to see what the noise was all about, but I was too late, as Katrina had already made the ultimate sacrifice, left her hot tub, and rescued Joshua.  He had awakened from his nap and somehow locked himself in his room trying to turn the doorknob.  I was thrilled that she was in control of the situation, which gave me the green light to head to the kitchen and pour my usual second cup of coffee.

As the evening rolled on, we cooked hamburgers and hot dogs along with tator tots and fries, and enjoyed our greasy cuisine.  It’s hard to beat a good greasy hamburger with melted cheddar dripping off of it.  I’m getting fatter just remembering it.  After dinner, I went upstairs to the master bedroom, sat down at my desk, and began sifting through some bills and papers that I should have already taken care of earlier in the weekend.

Off in the distance, somewhere else in the house, I could hear Katrina talking on the phone, and the kids screaming and playing.  I was engrossed in planning my week, making to-do lists, and reading mail that needed reading.  It all came to an abrupt stop when they all entered my utopia.

This was one of those moments that they would put in slow motion on TV.  I could see Katrina first, coming through the door to our bedroom, carrying some sort of white fluff under her arm. “What was that?” I wondered to myself.  As she and her four little minions came through the door, I could tell they all had something up their sleeves. Then I saw it move! AAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! It was a dog!  This was not just any old dog. I was quickly informed that it was a soft, cuddly, cute dog, and was just the one Katrina and the kids had been wanting, minus the dirty fur. And by the way, we HAD planned on getting a dog this spring, remember? They had backed me into a corner, all five, make that six, of them, counting the dog.  I was done for.

I immediately did what any good father would do.  I got that “we have to get rid of that thing” look on my face, while scrambling for phone numbers of neighbors who may know where this mutt belonged.  After making a phone call to one neighbor, then going door to door to a couple more, we learned that this dog had been lurking all day near our neighbor’s down the street, and that it was her opinion, as well as ours, that this vagrant had probably been dumped off by someone.

The dog appeared to be a Pekingese type of breed, and after quick observation, looked as though she had given birth very recently.  There was no sign of any puppies, though.  This little white dog could, however, have been mistaken for a small milk cow, as a great deal of engorgement was already underway on her underbelly.

Much to my disgust, Katrina and the kids had already taken the intruder to the laundry room and began rounding up things to give her a proper bath.  You would have thought the Super Bowl was going on in our laundry room as the crowd gathered around the utility sink.  Bradley climbed up and stood on the washer for a bird’s eye view.  What a show!

Katrina scrubbed and scrubbed, and the dog, as predicted by me of course, slung water all over the audience.  They didn’t care.  Somewhere along the way I had failed as a parent to teach my kids that dog drippings were disgusting.  Maybe someday they’ll be enlightened like me.  As the bath time drew to a close, I tried my best to stay one step ahead of this indoor car wash.  I arrived with an old towel, just in time to head Bradley off at the pass, as he had already made his way to the bathroom to retrieve one of our good towels.

Katrina dried the dog off, and then went off to find the dog brush we had in the garage while the dog wandered around our dining room floor in search of crumbs.  While I was grateful for the fact that the dog was cleaning the floor, I couldn’t help but cringe at the idea of having a dog running around in the house.  Naturally, I went outside to make arrangements for the dog to sleep outside in the pen we had out back.  It was the least I could do.

When I came back in, Bradley sat in one of our dining room chairs holding the dog as Katrina brushed her thoroughly.  After I heard the words “Isn’t she pretty” from Katrina for the 50th time, they turned her loose on the floor again to contaminate the house.  I just sat there in a daze taking it all in.  I could visualize myself lying in bed at night, suddenly waking up coughing as I was being smothered to death by piles of white dog hair covering my face.

While I was observing the dog, Bradley, and I suppose everyone else, was observing me. Bradley said “Why don’t you pet her, Daddy?  You’re the only one who hasn’t pet her.”  I had no immediate response to this, but soon I bent down to pet the dog, and as she quickly warmed up to me, she decided to roll over and show me her udders.  Fighting off the urge to run and get a bucket, I told the kids that maybe we just needed to milk her since she seemed to have such an abundance of it.  Bradley seemed to think it would be a good idea to gather some milk for our soon to arrive baby, Olivia, but Katrina didn’t go for that.

Bedtime had arrived for the kids and the dog, and while Katrina got the kids ready for bed, I took the dog and a bowl of water out back, glad to have the excitement subside for awhile. After we got everyone in bed, Katrina and I sat down for a breather and a late night snack as we listened to our new little friend yapping in the backyard.  I asked Katrina what we were going to name the dog, and for some reason the name Sophie came to my mind.  Being the wise woman she is, she quickly agreed with me, knowing this would be a way to get me on board with this whole adoption process.

The next day brought a slight reprieve from dogsitting, at least for a little while.  Katrina had to go to her doctor appointment to see if baby Olivia was ready to see the world yet, but came home disappointed.  No changes.

The weatherman had been forecasting a terrible winter storm to arrive later that evening, which was predicted to bring very cold temperatures, snow, and a chance of animals being brought indoors.  When I arrived home that day, thankful that Katrina’s sister had donated some dog food to our cause, I was greeted in our dining room by our daughter Hannah, followed by our little white fluffball, complete with a pink bow in her hair.  Someone was on a campaign to win me over.

Hannah led the dog around the dining room on her leash as she kept saying “Come on, Soapy. Come on, Soapy”.  I gave Katrina the “I know what you’re up to” look, and she just smiled, very pleased with herself that the name Sophie, which I had suggested, took hold so easily when she mentioned it to the kids.

As I surveyed the situation, I said “The dog sure looks clean.” Katrina said, “Yeah, she was soaking wet from being out in the rain and mud all day (where you left her), and besides, it’s supposed to snow tonight.  She’ll freeze to death out there.”  After more observation, I discovered the nice doggy bed that Katrina had made on the porch for Sophie, complete with a warm blanket.  The basket was inside of our giant fold-out play yard, which we had acquired for the kids when they were babies.  What I couldn’t understand was why the dog was in the house, since she had such grand accommodations on our front porch, but I guess my logical brain just can’t figure out such things.  We settled in for the evening, enjoyed our warm fire, and waited for the blizzard to arrive while Sophie barked at us through the French doors. The loud noise that this dog could produce was amazingly more apparent to us since she was within two feet instead of two-hundred.

One of the blessings of being with Katrina during her late pregnancy is getting to hear the incredible sounds of a sawmill next to me in bed, due to the constricted air flow she has from the baby.  The challenge of the past month has been to get to sleep first, because once I’m asleep the noise doesn’t seem to bother me.  The blessing of it is knowing that Katrina does not normally do this, which will mean that things will be back to normal soon.  On this particular night it was a double challenge for me to beat Katrina to sleep and to shut out the sound of the dog yapping below, but I finally managed it.

Around midnight I must have been having the most peaceful sleep, along with everyone else, inside and outside the house, until something woke me up. I leaped out of the bed like a jackrabbit, and when I did, I somehow fell flat on the floor, which inflicted a terrible carpet burn on my left knee. Since I was now awake, I figured I would go downstairs to see how deep the snow was from the impending blizzard.

I walked downstairs as quietly as possible, walked over to the front windows, looked out, but could not make out any snow.  I then walked over to the garage and flipped on the outside garage light in hopes of seeing the snow.  It was coming down very hard, and a considerable ground cover of the white stuff was forming as well.  I was then reminded of what a stupid mistake I had just made when the yapping machine outside got wound up to a high pitch.  I might as well have just walked into the middle of the house and cranked up the leaf blower.  I quickly turned off the light and went upstairs and back to bed, dozing off quickly as if nothing had happened.

My alarm went off promptly at 4:30, and I trudged downstairs to begin my day.  I got my coffee started, and as I headed across the dining room to go upstairs for my shower I heard the sound of scratching on the garage door. I had no idea how the dog had magically transported itself from the porch to the garage, but I didn’t care yet as I was not fully awake.

After completing my wake-up shower and getting dressed, I came downstairs to the sound of Sophie barking, and barking, and barking.  I poured my cup of coffee, set it on the countertop, and then headed out to the garage to show Sophie that my voice had some volume as well.  It worked for a moment, but she indicated quickly that another dose of my yelling was needed, for which I was happy to comply.  After this dose the barking subsided, and I went back into the house, wondering how she had gotten in the garage.  I guess Katrina had gotten up in the night, felt sorry for her because of the cold outside, and took her in the garage.

As I settled into my first cup of coffee and my daily Bible reading, I was pleased with myself that Sophie and I had come to an understanding, so it seemed, that she would be quiet.  The house was tranquil for a little while, but as I went about my business completing my morning routine, the thought occurred to me that not only was the dog in the garage, but that my car was too.  I would have to somehow manage to get my car out of the garage while keeping the dog in.

I finished gathering my things for work, and in my usual fashion, made two trips to the car.  I had this routine to near perfection by now, knowing that I couldn’t juggle my cup of coffee and my other things at the same time without spilling my coffee.  I went into the garage and somehow managed to keep Sophie from coming inside, and then opened the garage door.  It was snowing pretty hard, and I was glad to see that Sophie wasn’t wanting any part of that.  I put my laptop and lunch in the passenger seat and then went back to retrieve my coffee and bagel.

Upon returning to the garage, I managed to step in a nice fresh pile of Sophie poop, just as I looked up to see her in the driver’s seat of my car, as if she had done this lots of times.  Once was enough for me, and I quickly removed her from inside the car.  After putting my coffee and breakfast in my clean car, freshly soiled by paw prints, Sophie and I went outside to have a chat while I scraped poop off of my shoe.  After we got finished with our one-sided conversation in the snow, I got in the car, backed out of the garage, and headed to work.  When I saw Sophie staying in the garage as the door went down it gave me flashbacks of our last dog, a beagle named Buddy.  When the garage would open, Buddy would bound out the door like a runaway train, happy to be exposed to the freedom.  I drowsily drove off to work with the excitement of Sophie in my rear view mirror.

Katrina and the kids got up a little later, and the kids quickly took up with Sophie where they had left off the night before.  Katrina had to clean her up a little to let her in the house for a few moments, and then she put the dog back out on the porch for the rest of the morning.  Apparently Sophie did not understand this arrangement, because she continued to bark incessantly all morning.

Shortly after lunch a couple of neighbor girls came to the front door, as school was out because of the snow storm, and asked if anyone had seen a little white dog.  At last, Sophie’s owners had come to claim her, and rescue us from anymore turmoil.  One of the girls quickly identified her dog, whose name was actually Tabby.

Katrina carried her to the girl, removed the hair bow and collar, and proceeded to let the kids tell her goodbye.  The kids didn’t seem too interested in bidding her farewell, but were a little more encouraged to know that the girl said they could come over and see Tabby whenever they wanted to.

As things seemed to get back to normal that evening, Katrina and I were both relieved that we would not have to worry about a dog as our new baby arrived.  The kids were relieved that the dog had revived their hopes, as they knew we had promised them a dog in the spring.  Perhaps there is a Sophie out there for us somewhere.  Soon we will see.

Written by David Steen, with God smiling, March 3, 2008

Posted in Children, Critters, Family, Lost and Found, Pets, Weather, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Olivia’s Storytime

There she goes again, bounding gracefully by as she wisps through the room like a deer in the forest.  Her two little legs continually hop-skip wherever they take her, and as every leap separates her feet from the floor, she doesn’t miss a note of her singing.  Prancing and singing, prancing and singing, her little song of “La-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la” leaves the depths of her little sweet soul, exits her lips, and fills the airwaves with glad tidings.

Olivia watches Mommy, memorizing her every move.  In the very short time that we have had her she has taken notice of how Mommy reads a story to her and all of her brothers and sisters.  She is quite the actor.  At almost three years old she opens the book and performs as follows:

“One ‘tory said.”  Turn the page, deep breath.  “One ‘tory said.”  Turn the page, deep breath.  A pause comes, and then she turns to one side or the other, puts on her stern Mommy look, and says louder, “Now be twiet!”

She then turns the page and resumes with “One ‘tory said, one ‘tory said, one ‘tory said.”  Her best impression of Mommy reading a story goes through many cycles, complete with “the look” and the stern voice telling whoever is listening to “be twiet!”

As I lay my head on the pillow the other night, a deep calm invaded my entire body.  At last the busy day was over and I could relax in my warm bed and doze off to sleep as if sauntering leisurely down a winding path in a wooded forest.  The darkness was comforting as I began to close my eyes.  The silence invoked in my ears was gradually slowing my breathing and heart rate, sleep was near.  Then…

“Thwap!”

My body convulsed.  My blood pressure spiked.  What the heck was that?  Were we being invaded?

“Thwap, thwap, thwap!”

I was suddenly transported from my heavenly resting place into the middle of a racketball court.  From around two or three corners of hallway a sound was emitted, repeatedly, from our little angel in her room.  As our little Olivia pursed her lips together and applied a slight amount of inward pressure from her lungs, a loud smacking sound, the “thwap” I should say, was exiting her lips, travelling down the hallway, and beating my eardrum like a hammer.

Enlightened that sound waves could travel both ways, and before I could have the privilege of hearing any more of her “thwaps”, I said in my kindest yet firm voice, “Olivia!  Be quiet!  It’s bedtime!”

Peace and tranquility began again.  I was certain that my command for silence would be repeated back to me at a future time of her choosing in the form of “be twiet!” but until then, the silence was golden.  Olivia’s lip smacking practice finally subsided and I was soon able to get back to a resting heart rate.

We almost lost her.  In fact, we almost never had her.  She is a living, breathing miracle.  She is evidence that God blesses obedience.

Written by David Steen, with God smiling, February 15, 2011.

Posted in Animals, Children, Faith, Family, God, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Banana Plantation

There is something very wrong with this picture.  For some reason we have gotten accustomed to having fairly mild winters here in Arkansas, but that has not been the case this year.  Snow and below freezing temperatures are becoming commonplace around here.  Folks will likely pass out, myself included, when they open their next electric bill and notice the very large sum of cash that will be expected of them to keep the power plant churning.

Many moons ago, as Katrina and the kids were out for a stroll, they noticed some different kind of trees in front of a house they passed by.  When they returned back by on their return trip, an older gentleman happened to be outside, and Katrina stopped to ask him about his trees.  To her surprise, he had developed a nice collection of banana trees in his yard.  The problem was, before the first frost of each year they have to be brought inside or they would die.  He told her if she would come back later he would be glad to provide her a cutting off of them, so she did just that.  Needless to say, we’ve been through a winter or two with this perpetual plantation.  Last winter I had to open my big yapper and complain about the banana tree in our garage.  It’s not in the garage this year.

Although it is quite cool outside, our banana tree is thriving nicely in our bathroom upstairs.  I use the word “our” very lightly.  My involvement with this South American beauty involves all of the mornings that it reaches out and gives me a kiss as I walk past.  For some reason, as it thrives in its five gallons of heavenly humus, it apparently weeps for joy that it is being cared for so nicely, because on a daily basis the end of the leaves drip with moisture.  My lovely wife Katrina, the banana farmer, says that she never seems to notice the drips as she passes by, and she went so far as to demonstrate the side step I should learn to take to avoid close contact with the indoor jungle.  I believe there would be tears of joy for me if we could buy this intruder a one way ticket to Guatemala.  When I looked at the top forty-seven banana producing countries in the world I saw that the United States did not make the list, much less the state of Arkansas.

Another enigma that is not uncommon at our house is that mysterious disappearing milk jug lid.  Why, just the other day after returning from the store from making a milk run (six gallons at a time), I noticed that in no time flat a lid had already vanished from one of the gallons.  How does this happen so frequently?  As a person who loves for things to be in their place, the milk drinkers in our family seem to have a difficult time keeping up with the milk lid.  Many times a substitute lid gets used in lieu of the original, and because we purchase milk from a few different sources, finding an exact match from a spent milk jug is not always possible.  Frustrating.  One of these days I’m going to take my boss’s advice and purchase a goat for milk production, perhaps one that has a taste for banana tree leaves.

Soon the last snow will have fallen for the year and things will start blooming on the outside of our house.  If it were left up to me we would probably live on top of a dirt pile, but I thank God for Katrina that things will be sprouting soon, hopefully to keep the banana tree company when we move it back outside for the summer.

Written by David Steen, with God smiling, February 8, 2011.

Posted in Animals, Gardening, Outdoors, Plants, Weather, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Last Day of January

I left work today with great anticipation of seeing snowflakes in abundance, hoping the weatherman’s prediction hadn’t failed us again.  It hadn’t.  God came through for him today, giving him a much needed boost to his reputation for a change.  Large flakes were falling gracefully down, quickly covering the trees and wet ground.  I thoroughly enjoyed my twenty minute drive home today.

After running a few errands, I left Fort Smith, on my way home to Greenwood.  I enjoyed a leisurely drive home, watching the snow accumulate as I listened to a good novel on CD.  It seemed as though I was in two worlds at the same time.  I was transported to Mississippi, where the setting of the novel took place in the deep South, and yet I was driving through the deep South in another place, the place I call home, Greenwood, Arkansas.

I listened to the narrator of the book describing a scene in which the main character drove up to an old Southern house to have a grand lunch with an older lady who had gone to great lengths to welcome him.  As he described the setting of the large house with its big front porch, I felt as though I was at home.  He told of the southern cuisine, going into vivid detail about the quantities of food and the grand smells.

It seemed hot in Mississippi, as the author ate his pork chops and collard greens, but the snow continued to fall here.  The closer I got to home the whiter it got.  Shortly I arrived there and looked up the hill to see our house against a backdrop of snow.  I slipped and slid up our two hundred and fifty foot long mud hole we call a driveway, but I made it to the top safe and sound.  Seeing the house made me thankful again that we had made the decision to build our house with a large wraparound porch.  It was a grand scene that we don’t get to see often, as we only get a good snow about once a year.

After getting up the driveway I pulled into the garage and went inside.  Our house was warm, and I immediately smelled the aroma of chili simmering in the kitchen.  I had been looking forward to it all afternoon, knowing that my wife Katrina had informed me earlier in the day of what we were having.  There’s just something about a good bowl of chili smothered with cheese on a cold winter day.

After seeing that Katrina had dinner under control, I set out to get a fire going in the fireplace.  I quickly loaded the fireplace with newspaper, sticks, and wood, and soon had a roaring fire going, for which the kids were very grateful when they came in from the snow.

I was soon reminded again of how thankful I was that Katrina had already gotten our supper cooking, as she scrambled the kids to make sure they all got their dose of the snow before daylight ended.  She put on her “shutterbug” hat at she usually does during every climactic event, and went outside to click a few pictures of the kids in the snow.  She also dragged out our dilapidated video camera, which has no battery, plugged it into an inside wall outlet, stretched the cord through the door standing wide open, and commenced to pretend to be the nightly news video expert.  She narrated in her usual fashion as she scanned the kids playing in the frozen mush.

Bradley had just completed his first snowman he’d ever made, which was a combined conglomeration of snow, leaves, and mud, but he was proud nonetheless.  Mom made sure to get a good picture of this.  Hannah and Holly were off scampering through the snow, Holly being interested in the taste of the snow rather than the beauty of it.  There’s just something in every kid that wants to reach down and put a handful of those God-made ice crystals in their mouth.

Katrina and the kids frolicked in the snow for the last remaining moments before dark, and then they all brought their rosy cheeks inside, unbundled themselves, and gathered around the fire.  We soon sat down to our warm bowl of chili, grateful for God’s beauty on the outside, and for Him providing us heat and good food on the inside.  God is so good.

Written by David Steen, with God Smiling, January 31, 2008

Posted in Children, Food, God, Outdoors, Weather, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Snow Birds

It finally happened.  After moving that red beast from corner to corner all year, standing it up in every foreseeable location in the garage and storage room, our plastic red sled was affectionately sought after this afternoon.  The first snow of winter arrived today.  The weather predictions from the storm chasing gurus weren’t just a lot of hot air this time, but a blustery blast of cold air carrying a load of frozen excitement.

Who but God really knew what would happen with the weather today?  As we finished our lunch and settled into the afternoon huddled around a warm fire, we hadn’t seen a sign of the wintry mix they had forecasted, so we naturally perceived that they were wrong again.  Katrina was the first one to notice out the window in the latter part of the afternoon that flakes were drifting downward.  She excitedly ran in to tell the kids, and it wasn’t long before they were piling on coats and pulling on boots to run out and catch a few snowflakes.  Before long they were not disappointed as the dense snowfall quickly covered the ground.

Now that the kids were out and about in the new winter playground I couldn’t help but to step out for a moment myself.  Taking in the spectacular white blanket that God had blessed us with, I began to notice a gathering of little birds under Katrina’s bird feeder out front.  They seemed to be gathering around the birdseed on the ground as if it had not been there prior to the snow’s arrival.  It reminded me of those “snow birds” that flock to the stores the moment the weatherman even hints that there could be winter precipitation.  Whether it’s snowing or not the parking lots will fill up with folks afraid that their stockpile of food at home will not keep them alive until the storm passes in a few hours or so.  I suppose our half-a-loaf of bread in the cabinet will have to do us until I can ski down the hill in my car tomorrow.

It seems rare here in Arkansas to have back to back storms, but if the weatherman wants to go 2 for 2, we may see another wave of snow tomorrow.  Generally, no matter how deep it snows here in the river valley, it’s usually gone the next day due to the warm ground temperature and the minimal dip below the freezing mark.  Perhaps it will not be the case this time.

In addition to the snow birds losing their sanity in the excitement, the kids seemed to have lost touch with reality as they scrape morsels of snow from whatever horizontal surface they can find.  Just hours ago you wouldn’t have seen them licking the dirt off of the front porch rails, but sprinkle a little bit of frozen excitement out there on the trampoline and they are lapping it up like a dog in a mudhole.  Go figure.

Now that I am comfortably back inside with the fire, the birds have returned to scavenging from Katrina’s seeds of benevolence.  As the red sled continues to make trips down the hill carrying it’s passengers across the inch of excitement on the ground, I will sit here leisurely in my chair, sipping my hot coffee as the flakes slowly drift downward to our forest floor outside.

Written by David Steen, with God smiling, January 9, 2011

Posted in Animals, Children, Food, God, Outdoors, Weather, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Secret Room

With reckless abandon I tunneled my way into the cold dusty space, determined to clear a wide path before the end of the day.  I set out to do what seemed like an impossibility.  Our large storage room above the garage had reeked of neglect, and now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays was over, what better way to start our year than to do an extreme makeover, to bring our secret room back to life and usefulness.  On New Year’s Day while others were preparing black eyed peas and hog jowl, we would be putting things in order for a fresh start of our own.

Knowing that this job would require teamwork, Katrina and I set out on day one of this new year in the right direction.  Our biggest challenge was not only to dismantle the Christmas tree downstairs, along with all of its associated paraphernalia, but to find an acceptable location in the storage room upstairs.  I believe that we started with the idea of just cleaning up a little to make some room, but by the time we got in and rolled up our sleeves, it was full steam ahead.

First, I went into this with the idea that I needed to annihilate the lifetime collection of bills I had accumulated over the last twenty something years.  I’ve been pretty obsessed with hanging onto these, but the time had finally arrived for me to toss out some check stubs and banking records, many of which dated back to when I was in high school.  Surprisingly, the more I got into it, the more exhilarating it was to finally be rid of some of this clutter that I have been moving around from house to house, room to room, for all of my adult life.

Other decisions had to be made regarding larger (perhaps valuable at one time) items from our cache of stuff.  When Katrina and I married and combined our two households into one, we discovered that we had two identical Christmas trees.  We’ve used both of them off and on over the years, but now that both of them are quite dilapidated, not to mention the fact that we bought a new one many moons ago to replace them, we knew it was time to say bye-bye to the two withering evergreens.  Down to the curb they will go, both trees, together forever in the city dump.

Now that we were making some real progress I buckled down and broke out the shop-vac, ready to suck up anything that got in my path.  I was quite careful to gather a collection of stray puzzle pieces, Battleship pegs, Legos, and marbles as the dust flew and the floor became visible again.  Katrina had done a splendid job of packing the “good” Christmas tree up, and we were well on our way to creating a hospitable environment for children and adults alike.  Katrina had been using this as her sewing room, and the kids played and watched movies in here, and now they would be able to return even more comfortably than before.

Katrina and I knew that we were making some good headway when the kids showed up and began discovering all of the toys that they had forgotten they had.  Perhaps if we had done this over a week ago our Christmas budget could have been a lot more desirable.   We could have just wrapped up all of the stuff that had left the kids’ memories.  Somehow I don’t think I would have gotten away with that one, but who knows, there’s always next year.

As I sit here happily typing now on the loveseat in our new secret room, I am happy to know that the trash man will get a good workout this week as he hauls away our twin Christmas trees and a treasure trove of other junk.  Perhaps he will even find something of value for himself as we bask in the wide open spaces of our new storage area.  At the rate we’re going, I may have some more for him next week!

Written by David Steen, with God smiling, January 2, 2011

Posted in Children, Christmas, Holidays, Home Repair, Lost and Found, Storage, Time | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment