Monday, June 6, 2011

With many thanks to Hyalophora cecropia

Tonight, the girls (the almost eight year old and the eight month old - excellent family planning!) and I visited Target for the typical baby purchases: new size 18mos onesies for the "small" one.  *Insert audible sigh.*

As we departed in the 6:30 p.m. heat of 90+ degrees in June (which, let the records show, I welcome!), Sophie spotted a new friend on the concrete blocks above the blazing asphalt - a massive, gorgeous moth.

We snapped a few photos, and Sophie gazed at her pal wistfully.  Two things kicked in for me: Mommy/let's learn mode and "all wild things are good and free" mode (thanks, Audra!).  The former prevailed.  Honestly, I felt sorry for (at the time) him in that concrete jungle.  He was moving slowly, if at all, thanks to the heat.  I suggested we bring him home to our garden to have a little better and more pleasant chance.  I lifted him carefully and set him in our cart next to the milk, and promised Sophie he would not fly away.  At the car, he seemed more than happy to oblige us by moving into one of my canvas go home baskets (oh, the irony!).  The box sat in Sophie's lap, and she grinned at him the whole way home.

Once arrived, we agreed that she could wait on Fred to get home to discuss her new friend.  She read a few books and anointed him Al (it was supposed to be Owl due to his markings, but Aunt Jo misunderstood...). 

She was massive - wings each nearly the size of Sophie's hands.  Fred arrived and helped her identify a female Hyalophora cecropia, and she became Ally instead.  We agreed that she could visit Tillery Elementary tomorrow for the last day of school, since little else is likely to be planned.  Tragically, her life cycle is no more than 7 - 10 days, and her sole purpose to find a mate.  She won't eat or drink anything during her short life, and although my guilt continued, my love of Sophie's exploration and enthusiasm prevailed. 

These days, we're not paying much attention to official bedtimes and duties.  Summer is past due, and riding a bike around the neighborhood or climbing trees suddenly seems more important to me, and most certainly to Sophie.  So, 9:00 p.m. approached and passed, and it grew dark outside.  We ate dinner on the front porch and tried to endure the increasing mosquitos, and we spotted some early fireflies.  We agreed that Ally's home (still the canvas box, now with a piece of newspaper on top) was grossly inadequate.  We moved to a glass vase, which she did not approve of in the least, and then finally to a wire basket with a little foil over the top, which proved lightweight but had handles for her eminent trip to school tomorrow.

Then, things became rather interesting.  Our new pal thrashed around, and just as we grew a little worried, she found a still spot on the edge of the wire basket, and we had a perfect view.  She started laying eggs in a line - 10, then 20, then 40 (at last count).  Sophie wriggled with excitement, her eyes were massive.  We hung the basket high on a wrought iron hook in the living room in the dark, and Sophie begged Fred to hold her up high.  With a little bead of light, we watched her progress and cheered her on inside.  She rested, we left her.

Her markings were gorgeous.  We watched 10% of her life.  While I'm conflicted by taking her into our home rather than letting her go on her preferred silver maple as intended, I think that it may not be in vain.  In this house lives a little girl who knows that every critter has a role, and her sense of interest and respect for all of us, our lifespan and our jobs on this planet is intact, if not growing.  I think it might be worth it.

The house is dark, and Ally is still.  I wonder if she'll be alive tomorrow, but I think she will, and I think a class of first graders might appreciate her and her work.  As a mom, I think I have the smallest semblance of that moment in the hours following such life-giving effort and an appreciation for that feeling of quiet, proud exhaustion.  At the very least, there is nothing like inspiring a sense of awe, curiosity and wonder in a child.  Regardless of the fate of her eggs, Ally's life was most certainly not in vain - I know a little girl who will always appreciate the things she encounters in nature, and she and they will both be better for it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Finer Things

Today, my toes have mostly been in the sun. So have Ainsley's, although hers were kickedy-kicking most of the afternoon. Meanwhile, Sophie climbed the holly tree to death-defying heights.

She paused to make herself lunch, which is always amusing to me because she is so particular about it. She rounds out the portions (dairy, veggie, fruit) just as I would, carefully arranges the items on her plate, and always elects to pour her milk into a proper ceramic mug rather than a childish cup.

Today, I found her eating and singing on the front porch. Everything she does reminds me of Frances, the little badger in the Bread & Jam for Frances (and other) books. She had picked one of the first spring blooms from the yard (thoughtfully - she said she didn't want to kill the whole plant) and placed it in the tiniest vase by her plate.

Be still, my heart.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone... because some thoughts need to be shared before they vanish!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Comfort of our Routines

Sophie and I were chatting the other night as she was winding down for the night.  She looked out the window and said "There's that cat.  I see him every single night."  It was a bob-tailed cat, and she said it crossed the parking lot across from her bedroom around the time she went to sleep every night.

Since she has been intrigued by all the first grade work she's been doing on patterns, I thought it was a great time to play into that thought process.  My reply: "That's a routine, which is kind of like a pattern - it's something that happens every single day.  I like routines, because I can look forward to them and know what to expect - they're comforting.  Can you think of some other routines that you have in your life that make you feel good?"

She said she liked every morning when her alarm clock goes off and she comes to get in bed with us and snuggle for a few minutes.  She likes getting dressed by the fireplace on cold mornings.  She really likes the breakfast she's been having recently: whole wheat toast with a little butter and cinnamon sugar, half a grapefruit and milk.  She said she liked when Daddy carried her to bed every night, and snuggling with us at bedtime.  She even admitted that she likes when we make her lunches together for the whole week, and although she didn't confess to liking her daily chores, she did like marking them off her chore list.  Amen, sister.  There's nothing like marking things off a to do list.  In fact, I've been known to jot something down that I've already done just for the satisfaction of crossing it off.  Yes, I'm that cool.

All good thoughts, but most comforting to me was the idea that a seven year old gets it, and that she can speak thoughtfully about what is important in her life.  I find my life is better every time I embrace routines, and that it feels frantic and chaotic when I let them slip.  Last week was a busy one in our work and home lives, and I feel like my control of our house (and my car, ugh!) has slipped away.  I'll be making time to get those things back in order this week so that we can slip comfortably back into our predictable routines.  They make us feel like we can control a thing or two in life, and more importantly, they give us more time to hang out together.

Well said, seven year old.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Blog transition

Happy 2011!

As of today, I've transitioned our former to this broader family blog.  Because, let's face it - as much as she is likely to grow up thinking the world revolves around her, it probably doesn't.  :)

I've moved all the posts leading up to Ainsley's arrival, her first days and our life together since then to this site.  If you keep up with our family, thanks!  You can subscribe to this blog via email or simply follow it if it is of interest.

And to those of you who follow the random stream of consciousness that is my personal blog, it's still going strong at  My sympathies and deepest appreciation.

Here's to a fantastic and prosperous 2011 for you and your family!
~The Stephens

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

November & December 2010

A few recent photos before transitioning the blog...

A perfect evening in a little girl's room

Madeline: check. Chloe the cat: check.  All set for a snooze.

Cousins.  Enough said.

Things I love: downtown Rogers, our church in the background, this sassy girl.  Things I don't love: it looks like a senior picture.

Making our fun new advent calendar!

Sneaky girl.  You can't even see her, she's so subtle.

Fred & Sophie decorating the Christmas tree.

Sophie & Alex before the Nutcracker at Arend Arts Center.

Ainsley in her super cool tie dye shirt from Ms. Maggie at ONSC.

The great ER visit of 2010 - six stitches, much sadness.

Following the ER visit - a solemn note from BFF Alex.

Sophie & Sean open their joint Christmas gift.  They appear to be thinking "phhpppttt" re: shared Christmas gifts.

I commissioned this original work for our kitchen chalkboard.

I particularly like the sturdily built snow forts.

The littlest angel drew this fun angel - love it.  She looks like a kind of pouty and perturbed seven year old angel.

Sophie has added this standard scene of the baby Jesus and an angel to all her Christmas drawings in the upper left corner, sort of signature style - lest we forget the meaning of the season, apparently.

Another custom work on the dining room chalkboard.

Gigi and Ainsley have a private conversation.

The last slumber party of 2010, complete with a trip to Kirby's Kupcakes.
On to 2011!