This is the last week you’ll hear me talk about my birthday till next summer. I got a gorgeous box of chocolates from someone I work with the other day–these chocolates are so beautiful, it’s a sin to eat them, but I will, eventually.
My cheesecake will be here this week, but because my birthday falls on the busiest day of the week for the day-job, we’ll have birthday dinner and cake on the weekend next week. I’m still pondering dinner, but the cake was already decided on.
Today’s post really is about gratitude, not birthdays, though. I always try to find things to be thankful for, even on the hard days. Today I am grateful for a couple of things:
My next door neighbor. She is an older woman who lives alone, though occasionally her son will stay with her for a few days. I sometimes take her dinner, but usually we visit in the yard. I worry about her right now, with this wretched virus still on the loose, and don’t see her as often–because of this virus, I’m trying to have as little physical contact with the rest of the world as possible, and her adult kids mostly are doing the same to avoid carrying any germs to her. I happened to be hauling trash out this afternoon, though, and she was working in her garden. It was 99 degrees here at that point, so it was hot, and she was in full sun. Just walking out the door into our carport, the heat and humidity just about took my breath away. But we got to chatting anyway, and I was reminded how nice it is to have a good neighbor. She welcomed us when we moved here almost twenty years ago, when her kids still lived at home, and mine were in grade school. We talk gardens, and flowers, and anything else under the sun, and it’s nice to be able to do that, even if we have to keep our distance right now.
My garden. I have eight or nine tomato plants just going to town right now. The yellow cherry tomato plant looks like it’s done, and one of the Roma tomatoes looks like it might be giving up the ghost after just a few tomatoes, but the others are just kicking into high gear. (I swear my grape tomato must have a couple hundred tomatoes on it, and I’ll have to start freezing tomatoes much sooner than usual to keep up.) My herbs are big and sprawling, and some are blooming so the honey bees are all over them right now. And my hibiscus is absolutely loving the hot weather. It’s got a couple dozen flowers blooming and tons of buds all over it. It makes me happy when that starts to bloom every summer. The flowers are big and pretty. What’s not to like?
Before I go figure out some supper, I have a little story snippet for you, from Light the Way Home.
Lucie should’ve known nap-time would be an issue.
Hayden frowned at her from the foot of the steps, hands fisted at his hips. “I’m not tired.”
She tamped down a smile at that bald-faced lie. “I promised your dad we’d do nap-time, and I don’t break promises, buddy.”
The little boy’s expression shifted to something different, more cunning. “You said you take naps.”
She smiled this time. “I do.”
“Then you gotta take one, too. Wif me.”
Gotcha. “Well, first I have to clean up our lunch mess.”
His frown returned. “You hafta nap, too.”
“Are you going to help me clean up in the kitchen?”
“’Kay.” He trotted toward her again, startling her.
He was good. She restrained a sigh and followed him into the kitchen. The clean-up wouldn’t take long really. She might actually have to take a nap, or at least lie down with him. Wouldn’t be the first time–just the first time in a couple of years–she’d been outsmarted by a pre-schooler.
Hayden actually did try to help, putting his plate and cup in the dishwasher, and his napkin in the trash, plus a bunch of crumbs on the floor. Lucie ruffled his hair. “Thanks, buddy. Now it’s time.”
He didn’t argue, just led the way upstairs, but he came to a stop in the doorway to his room. “I don’t think you’ll fit in my bed, Lucie.”
“I don’t either, buddy. But I can sleep on the sofa.”
He narrowed his blue eyes. “But then I can’t see if you’re nappin’. You hafta nap up here. I’ll get you one of Daddy’s pillows.” He ran across the hall before she could stop him, then reappeared, dragging a pillow with him. “Here. You can sleep beside my bed.” He swung the pillow toward her.
Lucie caught it. “Okay.” There was no point arguing. If she lay down next to his bed until he fell asleep, no big deal.
Hayden climbed up onto his bed and wrestled the blankets for a moment until he could slide between them. “Right there,” he said, pointing at the floor beside his bed.
She put the pillow down, then tucked his blankets around him. “Okay. Close your eyes.”
“When you do.”
She smiled. “All right.” She lowered herself to the floor, winking when he leaned over to watch, then stretched out. “All right, I’m going to close my eyes. One, two, three.” She shut her eyes, listening to him flop down and sigh. “Are your eyes closed?”
“Yep. Have a good nap, Lucie.”
“You, too, Hayden.”
For a few minutes, she listened to him fidget. Then it got quiet. She smiled again.
She winced. “Yeah, buddy?” She kept her tone low.
“I’m glad you moved here. Micah is too.” He sounded drowsy.
“Who’s Micah?” She should’ve let that go instead of keeping him talking.
“Oh.” That explained that. “Okay, sleepy time,” she whispered.
“’Kay,” he whispered back.
This time when it got quiet, it stayed that way. She relaxed, listening to his even breathing. She needed to finish lunch clean-up. And maybe think about supper. She wondered what was in Nate’s fridge and freezer. Maybe after nap-time, she’d take Hayden over to raid her fridge–she probably had something in it that would need to be used up soon. She couldn’t remember right now what she’d picked up at the store.
She jerked awake, then blinked up at the small face hovering above her.
“You really took a nap.”
Lucie took a slow breath. “I told you I take naps.” She just hadn’t meant to do it today.
Hayden smiled, still hanging over the side of the bed. “I din’t believe you took naps.”
She reached up to tweak his nose, making him giggle. “Now you know I don’t lie.” She pushed upright. “Okay, buddy. Time to think about what you’re having for supper.” As she got to her feet, he scrambled out of bed.
“It’s not suppertime yet.” He caught her hand.
“I know, but if I figure it out now, you’ll be able to eat on time.” She bent to scoop up the pillow from the floor. “Can you put this back for me? I want to wash my hands.”
“’Kay.” He took the pillow and hurried across the hall while she went into the bathroom next door.
Her shoulder-length hair was a mess from her unplanned nap, so she did her best to finger-comb it into order again, then headed downstairs with Hayden, who plopped onto the sofa with a book while she continued into the kitchen.
No meat in the fridge, she discovered, so she opened the freezer. Plenty there, but now that she stood in front of Nate’s food, she remembered the chicken in her fridge. No defrosting necessary. Plus veggies in the crisper. She could roast them all together and have dinner in one pan. Less clean-up later.
“Hey, buddy!” She turned away from the fridge and came up short when she found Hayden a foot away, a book in one hand. “Oh, there you are. We need to run over to my place to get some things for supper. Let’s get your jacket.”
“What’re we havin’?” He followed her into the mud room and dropped his book on the bench inside the door.
“I’m going to roast a chicken and some veggies to go with it. Are you a good baker?” She helped him into the jacket, then tugged her sweater on.
“I help Grandma bake cookies.”
She made sure the back door was unlocked before she shut it behind them. “Well, that’s excellent. I was thinking maybe we could bake a cake for dessert.”
“I like cake.”
She laughed. “I bet you do. Come on, let’s do this.”
In under ten minutes, they were back at Nate’s. Hayden pulled up a step stool to the sink, and she let him ‘scrub’ potatoes and carrots with the vegetable brush while she prepped the chicken.
“What can I do next?” he asked when she handed him a towel and took over the veggies.
“Hm, let me think about that. After your fingers are dry, why don’t you get your book from the mud room until I get this into the oven? It’ll only be a couple minutes, and then we can mix up the cake.”
“Okay!” He swiped at his hands with the dish towel, then threw it at the counter before he ran to the next room.
Shaking her head, Lucie quickly finished cleaning the potatoes and carrots, then added them to the roasting pan, sprinkled some salt and pepper over everything and drizzled a little oil before she covered it and put it into the oven. When she turned around, Hayden was seated at the table, but instead of looking at his book, he watched her. She smiled. “Do you like icing on your cake?”
“Oh, yeah!” He nodded solemnly. “Chocolate is the best.”
“You think so?” She congratulated herself for thinking to grab the cocoa powder while they’d been at the other house. “Well, we might be able to do something about that.” She winked at him when his eyes rounded.
He helped with the cake, too, dumping cupfuls of ingredients into the bowl for her, though she had to admit it wasn’t as big a mess as it could have been. Teddy had been a much messier kitchen assistant. Lucie slid the cake pan into the second oven less than fifteen minutes later.
“Okay, now we mix up some icing, and clean up our mess, and we can actually read some of that book before the cake is ready to come out. What do you say?”
Hayden rushed at her and wrapped his arms around her legs. “Thank you, Lucie!”
She bent and gave him a hug. “You’re welcome.” Her chest squeezed a little, too, but she ignored it. “Thanks for being such a good helper. Okay,” she said as she straightened, “let’s make our icing, and then clean the table so we can read.”
She needed more than a nap, she mused. She needed a good night’s sleep to make up for last night. She was being too sentimental. A full night’s sleep, and she’d be as good as new.
I have a guest blog post scheduled this Thursday, July 30, at Delilah Devlin’s blog, so I hope you will pop over and check that out, too. There might be a prize.
And maybe pop by my Facebook page on my birthday. I’m thinking about virtual cake (no calories!) and cocktails in the evening. Maybe a couple of party games, too. See you there!