xmlns:og>='http://ogp.me/ns#'> Pedals & Pencils: February 2011

February 25, 2011

More Than Love

My blogger friend, Hippie, has this cool collaborative blogging exercise going on as part of her Algonquin Experiment.  It involves Hippie posing a question and people responding on their own blogs.

So this is the question she posed:  What do you love more than love?

I thought of a thousand answers.  God.  But that one's sort of obvious.  Cycling.  Obvious squared.  Ice cream.  Sadly, also very apparent.  Writing.  Same.  My friends.  But everyone loves their friends.  My little ones.  But I've written about them ad nauseam as of late.  My husband.  (A fact I should probably mention to him more often.)  All of my answers were so generic.

Except one.

The thing I love more than love is being on the other side of it.


Sure love is great when it's new and shiny, when your beloved can do no wrong.  And after a few years when the sheen wears off a little bit and you settle into the day to day acts of love, mmmm, that comfortable love is good, too.

But sometimes love unravels, frays at the edges and begins to fall apart in the very hands that made it.

I've been in this stage of love, too.  When love was painful work, when it was all we could do to hang onto each other and pray.  A lot.  This isn't the kind of glass slipper love that fairy tales are made of.  It's not pretty.  It is devastatingly hard, so much so that for me, heartache was actually physically painful.

But we chose to press into God, to hold onto the frayed pieces.  We chose to love when it wasn't the easy choice.  And that's what I mean by the other side of love.

So the thing I love more than love is love that has been worn thin.  Love that has broken into shards.  Love that has taken on water fast and is listing badly.  You might be thinking that's a bit of a metaphor overload.  If so, to you I say count your blessings.  Others know with painful precision what I'm talking about.  You, dear ones, know that it's possible to be frayed, shattered, and sinking all at once.

I can only hope that you also know about the love that comes out on the other side of all that pain. This love is scarred.  And fierce.  And secure.  And more wonderful than anything I could have ever imagined.  This is the love I have in my life.  I thank God for it every single day.

You know, I wish fairy tales did talk about this kind of love because I can say with assurance that this is the kind of love that creates a happily ever after.

Haiku for You

Today because it's Friday,

And because I've spent the last couple of days helping my little ones dip their toes in Haiku,

And because I love poets who don't always take life so seriously,

And because you deserve a little more poetry in your life,

And because I can't get enough of Poetry Everywhere,

Here's a little Haiku snack to nibble on:


February 24, 2011

Thankful Thursday #13

This week I'm thankful for...

  • SNOW!  Real, honest to goodness, sticking on the ground snow!!!

  • taking my little ones out for a few minutes to catch snowflakes on their tongues and on black paper

  • the little boy who ate the snow off his paper

  • the snowman built by the kiddos next door

  • blowdrying my hair on cold mornings

  • my stepdad, who always says yes when I ask for his help

  • roses from my hubby "just because"

  • good books

  • cucumber green tea body wash

  • the colleague who brought me lunch

  • the feeling that I worked really hard in spin class

February 22, 2011

The SS Cauliflower

Okay, you've probably had it up to here with cute stories about my little ones.  (I'm holding my hand up over my head, just in case you're wondering where 'here' is.)  I promise I actually have other stuff in the works, but sometimes my kiddos just sweep in and steal my heart and I can't keep from writing about it.

One boy in particular made me laugh so hard today that I actually had to wipe the tears from my eyes.  This kid always has a twinkle in his eye and he recently told me that he styles his fauxhawk every morning.  All.  By.  Himself.  He's the kid who writes his own knock-knock jokes and reads them to the class.  It matters little that most of his jokes don't make any sense.  Apparently, relevant punchlines are totally optional in first grade.

Early this morning Twinkle Eyes came in the classroom and whispered in my ear "Tomorrow is the day my mom comes home!"  Okay, what started as a whisper ended up more like an ear-piercing, headache inducing screech, which is absolutely forgivable since his mom is in the military and hasn't been home in months.  I can overlook a little tinitis.

Later that day, I was reading a book about George Washington to the class.  I was in the middle of explaining why the colonists didn't want be under England's rule.

Twinkle Eyes raised his hand.  "England is where the Pilgrims came from, right?"

"Exactly."  I pulled down the map and showed them England in relation to the colonies and also in relation to California.

"I remember you reading about the Pilgrims coming across the ocean on The Cauliflower."  He sat up tall, so proud to remember such a good detail from November.

And I tell you, I couldn't help it, I cracked up.  Not just a snicker behind my hand or a dainty little giggle.  I was laughing so hard I had to put the book down and wipe my eyes on the back of my hand.  They sailed on The Cauliflower!  The Cauliflower!  Even now as I type it, I'm fighting back the chuckles.  Gimme a sec to get a grip.  Talk amongst yourselves.

Ahem.  Okay, that's better.

As I was having a complete fit, my class sat on the rug giggling at their teacher who had surely lost it for good this time.  Twinkle Eyes was equal parts happy to have made us all laugh and perplexed at what exactly was so funny.

I clicked on our interactive whiteboard and pulled up a photo of cauliflower and explained that it's a vegetable.  Then I pulled up a drawing of The Mayflower.  I flicked back and forth between the two pictures explaining to Twinkle Eyes and the rest of my little ones how it would have been really funny to see a bunch of Pilgrims sailing across the Atlantic on cauliflower.  By this point, they were beside themselves, giggling and snorting and holding their sides.  And I was right there with them.  Twinkle Eyes was laughing the hardest of all.

Somehow we managed to collect ourselves and have a productive day.  Toward the end of the day, Twinkle Eyes was working on a card for his mom.  I looked over his shoulder to see how it was progressing.  The card was a folded piece of sky blue construction paper and on the inside he'd markered a dark blue ocean.  His mom was sailing in a boat toward him.  And he was sailing a second boat toward her.  I bet you can guess what their boats were made of.  Yep.  Cauliflower.  Cauliflower with little broccoli oars.

My little guy may have to explain why the boats are made of cauliflower, but I'm certain in my bones that his mom will understand the meaning of the card.  I can just picture Twinkle Eyes sitting in her lap reading it.  I picture her laughing at his jokes.  I picture her helping him style his hair in the mornings.  I picture him whispering special things in her ear.

In a couple of days his mom will pack her things up again and fly back across the ocean.  In her suitcase I imagine she'll carry that drawing of cauliflower ships.  And in her mind she will hold the memory of her son's twinkling eyes.

February 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday #12

This week I'm thankful for...

  • the little boy in my class who used his own money to buy valentines for the class

  • the windmills on Hatchett Ridge at night, all lit up in red lights like a valentine just for me

  • texts from my hubby just to say he loves me

  • realizing I haven't driven my car for a couple of days because I've walked to all my destinations

  • waking up to the sound of rain

  • days when the rain stops just in time to walk to work and stops again for my walk home

  • weekends when my hubby starts the laundry

  • waking up and realizing it was only a dream and I did not, in fact, go to school in my pajamas

  • riding with the top down with my hubby while he sings along to Ray LaMontagne's "Hold You In My Arms"


February 15, 2011

A Smattering of Thank You Notes

Dear Curtain Rod in my Bathroom,

Thank you for falling on my head when I had my arms full of laundry and was defenseless against your attack.  And thank you for doing it just as I was trying to move myself up a number or two on the Valentine's Day scale of attractiveness.  My head was getting a little too big and big heads just aren't attractive.  (For the record, big heads with bumps aren't that pretty either.)


The Girl Seeing Stars


Dear Hammer,

Thank you for smashing my thumb into oblivion when I was putting the curtain rod back up.  It took my mind off my throbbing head.


The Girl Typing With Nine Fingers


Dear Papa Murphy's Take n' Bake,

Thank you for making heart shaped pizzas for girls like me who should never, ever, ever be allowed near the oven.  It was nice to give my special someone something edible for a change.

With love,

Me, My Hubby and Our Full Bellies


Dear Google,

Thank you for putting this little graphic on your page for Valentine's Day.  You sent tons of traffic to my LOVE post.  What a nice Valentine's Day surprise.

Loving You More Than a Google,

The Girl Who Will Now Stop Obsessively Checking Her Blog Stats

February 14, 2011

Little Love Poems

Happy Valentine's Day!  Maybe today is your favorite day of the year and you're surrounded by chocolates and roses.  Maybe you're spending today in your own good company, but you wish you could just pull the covers over your head and stay in bed until February 15th shows its face.  No matter what today looks like for you, I hope you find a way to show someone you care about that they're loved.

And to get you in the mood, here are a few love poems written by my little ones.

Here's one a little girl wrote for her mommy.

Marshmallow Hugs

Mom, you are as beautiful as a rose!

Your hugs feel like soft, soft marshmallows.

I love you more than the moonlight.


I love you, Mom!


And a couple for sisters and brothers.

My Love Poem

You are as sweet as a rose.

I love you so much more than my dog.


Dear Brother,

Happy Valentine's Day!

You are kind.

You are sweet as sugar.

I like you because you share with me and you help me read.


Last, but not least, here is my favorite poem written by a little boy to his dad.

My Love Poem

Your love is soft like a soft cloud.

I love you to the ocean.

You are handsome like a tiger.

I love you with joy.


I am so using that tiger line on my hubby tonight.  Happy Valentine's Day!

February 11, 2011


The bell rang and all my little ones rushed in hanging up their backpacks, ordering their lunches, clattering their chairs down, before settling in on the rug for our morning meeting.  We talked about the day ahead and one of my little guys raised his hand.  He is Mr. Personality, always quick with a laugh, eager to please, and enough energy to power the sun.

But at that particular moment, he sat still, hand raised to say something important.

"Mrs. McCauley, I have a comment to tell the class."

"Okay, go ahead." I smiled.

Then Mr. Personality looked around the classroom, leaned forward and said "I think I have a superpower."

I could feel my smile turning into a giggle, but when I saw the earnest look on his face, I choked my laugh back down and put on my serious face.  The rest of the class sat listening, some of them with their heads cocked to the side, others nodding.

"What superpower do you think you have?" I asked.

"When I hear sounds, I know what they mean."  He sat up on his knees.

"What do you mean?"  I rubbed my chin and nodded, trying to take his claim under serious consideration.

"When I hear sounds or music without words, I know what the music is trying to say."  His eyes sparkled.

"That is a pretty special ability."

"I know.  I listened to music without words in the car this morning.  And I just knew what it was saying."

"Well, I think you'll have to see if your superpower works at school, too.  Be sure to let us know."  Then Mr. Personality's best friend raised his hand, and I called on him, hoping we could get back to the tasks of the day.

No such luck.

"Mrs. McCauley, I think I have a superpower, too.  I'm super strong."  He flexed his muscles.

"Yeah."  chimed Mr. Personality, "He is really strong.  He pulled me all the way down the hallway!"

"You what?!?"  I gaped at my little strong man.

"Don't worry, he didn't hurt me.  That's how strong he is.  He pulled me down the hallway and I didn't even feel it."  Mr. Personality grinned.  "It was awesome!"

Then the carpet erupted in a frenzy of my little ones telling each other all about the super powers they are sure, absolutely sure, they possess.  I listened to them chatter for a few seconds and then calmed them down to address this very important issue of superpowers.

I looked at their shiny faces all staring up at me with pure innocence.  And I couldn't bear to squelch their enthusiasm.  They were so filled with magic.  And I don't know about you, but I could use a little more magic in my life.

"Okay. " I started. "If you think you have a superpower, like being super strong or understanding instrumental music, then there's one thing you need to keep in mind."  I paused for dramatic effect.  Oh, you'd better believe I had their attention now.

"What, Mrs. McCauley, what?"  Mr. Personality could barely stand it.

I leaned in close and lowered my voice.  "If you think you have superpowers, then you have the responsibility to find ways to use your superpowers for good."

"And not for evil!  Because that would make you a villain."  Strong Man asserted.

"Exactly.  So today look for opportunities to use your superpowers for good, okay?"

"Okay."  Twenty-six heads nodded back at me.

After recess Strong Man reported back to the class that he'd helped pick up three different kids who had fallen on the playground.

"You didn't knock them down first, right?"  I asked.

"No, Mrs. McCauley.  That wouldn't count."  He shook his head, looking at me like I was ridiculous for even asking someone with super strength such a thing.

"I was just checking.  Thanks for being so helpful."

Later that day, my little ones hunkered down and wrote love poems to special people in their families, I checked in on Mr. Personality.

"I'm writing one for my Granddad."

"Do you want to read it to me?"  I asked.

"It's not finished, but I'll read the start."  He cleared his throat.  I crouched down by his desk to take a good listen.  He picked up his paper and began. 'Do you hear me?  I love you to the stars and back.'

"Ooooh, that's a good start.  But I'm not sure I understand the first line.  Can you explain it to me?"

"My granddad died last year and I want to know if he can still hear me."

"Oh." I nodded.

"Do you think he can still hear me in Heaven?"

"Yes, I think he can."  I looked Mr. Personality in the eye.

"But there's just one problem, Mrs. McCauley, when I finish my poem, how am I going to get it to him?"

"I don't know.  We'll have to think about how to solve that one."

The next morning, Mr. Personality came into the classroom early.  I was finishing up a few things, popping around the room making sure everything was ready for the day.

"Mrs. McCauley, I think I figured it out."  He hung his backpack up and turned toward me.

"Figured what out?" I asked, buzzing around the room, dotting i's and crossing t's.

"I think I figured out how to get my letter to Granddad."

I stopped and turned toward him.  "Really?  Well, lay it on me."

"I just have to find someone who's superpower is flying.  Then they can fly it up to Heaven for me."

"That is an excellent plan."  I leaned against a table.

"Can you help me find someone?"  He leaned against the table next to me.

"That might be pretty hard, but I'll do my best."  I put my arm around him and gave him a squeeze.  He scooted out the back door for morning recess, leaving me alone in the classroom with my thoughts.

I thought about Mr. Personality and wondered if he really does hear music differently than you and I.  I thought about Strong Man, who was no doubt out at recess right that very second looking for people to help.  And I thought maybe they're not so far off in thinking they have superpowers.

I'm pretty sure I've got a couple of superpowers myself.  I can eat burritos and never tire of them.  I can ride my bike pretty far.  Okay, those ones are more like mediocre powers.  On a good day I can string words together and sometimes even make them make sense.  I'm also pretty skilled at convincing people to donate money to help fight the supervillain, cancer.

And while I'm proud of my ability to fight cancer and more proud than I should be over my ability to consume burritos, I'm left wishing I had the ability to fly Mr. Personality's poem to his granddad in Heaven.  I'm desperately trying to come up with a way to make that poem fly because Mr. Personality has me believing that magical things are possible.

And that may just be his greatest superpower.

February 10, 2011

Thankful Thursday #11

This week I'm thankful for...

  • driving with my windows rolled down

  • wearing flip flops in February

  • walking my neighborhood when the sky is clear enough to see the mountains and the rows of windmills turning on Hatchet Ridge

  • taking my little ones to see a play at the theater. There's just nothing like a theater full of laughing children.

  • the little boy who came back from the theater and wrote in his notebook that he loved the whole thing and it was the best day ever!

  • walking to school and church in Spring-like weather

  • riding my bike

  • fleece hoodies

  • the sounds of kids playing in the neighborhood

  • opening all the windows in the house

  • Love poems like "I Carry Your Heart With Me" by ee cummings.  Enjoy!


February 8, 2011

Love Songs

I'm a sucker for a good love song.  Love songs for your best beloved.  Love songs for your friends.  Love songs for your home.  Love songs for God.  I can't get enough.  I just can't help myself.  Here are a few I listen to over and over again.

"First Day of My Life" by Bright Eyes is a happy tune, the perfect driving song.  So, crank the windows down, grab the hand of a loved one and get ready to be giddy.  My two favorite lines are: "This is the first day of my life, swear I was born right in the door way."  and "These things take forever, I especially am slow."  You and me both.

"Have I Told You Lately?" by Van Morrison is a song I've loved for gazillions of years and will love for gazillions more.  I'm swooning just thinking of this song.  And the line that makes my heart do a little dance?  "For the morning sun in all its glory greets the day with hope and comfort, too."  What a way to start the day, filled with hope and comfort.  Go listen to this one right now.  I will, too, and then we'll meet back here, ok?

"Falling Slowly" by The Frames isn't a happy-go-lucky kind of love song.  At all.  But for me it's so tender in the wanting, wanting to pick up the broken pieces of a worn out, worn down, tattered love that's worth saving.  The line that strikes me most is "Take this sinking boat and point it home, we've still got time."

Next up is "You're Beautiful" by Phil Wickham.  I saw him in concert, and if you can fathom it, his voice is even more pure in person.  Hard to believe, I know.  I love how big this song feels, how he sings about all the things in nature that remind him of God.  My favorite line is not the most complex line in the song, but the simplicity of it moves me.  "I see Your face.  You're beautiful, you're beautiful, you're beautiful."

You're going to make fun of me for this next one, but I don't care.  "Ice Cream" by Sarah McLachlan is on my love song playlist.  Anyone who knows me at all knows that I will give my right arm for ice cream.  And if it's Slow Churned Moosetracks, I'll give you my left arm, too.  Although it would be really hard to eat ice cream without any arms.  I digress.  When Sarah sings the line "Your love is better than ice cream, better than anything else that I've tried.", I'm amazed because she gets it-she gets how much I love ice cream and how much I love my hubby.  I prefer the live version of this one because it seems like the audience is having so much fun singing along.

"Grandma's Hands" by Bill Withers might seem like an odd choice to be on a list of love songs, but love takes many forms.  It's got this great bluesy feel and when Bill Withers sings the line "Grandma's hands used to clap in church on Sunday mornings." I can picture my own grandmother's hands clapping along to all those Baptist hymns.  And the last line "When I get to heaven, I'll look for Grandma's hands", well, that one is so true, so raw that it leaves me aching for that day.

Friends, Peter Gabriel could sing the phonebook and I'd be smitten, so it's no surprise that "In Your Eyes" is a favorite.  Right, ladies?  I don't even mind that it's riddled with 80's synthesizer.  That's how good this song is.  In fact, I don't even have a favorite line in this song because the whole thing is all kinds of delicious.  Not to mention the added imagery of John Cusack standing outside the house with his boombox held overhead.  I love being a child of the 80's.

"Close Your Eyes" by Jump, Little Children is another non-traditional love song.  It's such a tender song from a father to his child.  It's the lullaby that keeps me company in the wee hours of the morning when sleep is elusive.  The second best line is "Tell me the stars are made of tin and that they're banging on the roof."  Man, I wish I could write like that.  And the reassurance that "The sun will rise and keep your mind at ease.", that one makes me yawn, close my eyes and relax back into the soft arms of a dream. Sadly there aren't many videos out there of this song.  The one I linked to is the best one out there and it doesn't even begin to do the song justice.  This one deserves a listen in iTunes.

And finally, finally here is my absolute favorite love song, "How He Loves" by David Crowder Band.  It expresses perfectly how in awe I am at the depth of God's love.  I get chill bumps every time I hear it and when we sing it in church, I can barely choke back the sobs that bob in my throat.  My favorite line is "Heaven meets earth like an unforseen kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us."  Love that leaves no time, no space for to wallow in regrets?  Yes and amen.


Now it's your turn.  What love songs do I need to add to my playlist?

February 6, 2011

Hurts So Good

While the rest of the country is waist deep in snow, Northern California is doling out a premature dose of Spring.  And what's a girl to do with all this sunshine and temperatures dawdling in the 70's?  You know what I'm going to say next, right?  I can barely even stand it.  I'm itching with giddiness as I type my answer.


I haven't been out on The Rocket nearly enough the past few weeks and so when That Laura suggested we go for a bike ride while everyone else watched football, I was all over it.  There is a new piece of the river trail that leads up to Shasta Dam and I've been salivating over it.

I pulled on a short sleeve jersey, arm warmers, and snapped on some Spandex.  I peeled my toe warmers off my shoes and didn't even give my tights or full fingered gloves a second glance.  There just aren't words for what a delight it was to wear my warm weather cycling gear in February.  It was a fantastic!

[caption id="attachment_3145" align="alignright" width="291" caption="Keswick Reservoir"][/caption]

We rode past the Sundial Bridge and along the Sacramento River, giggling and burbling next to us.  Families were out en masse walking their dogs, skateboarding, and teaching itty bitty ones to ride their bikes.

Laura and I rode past Keswick Dam and climbed right next to Keswick Reservoir.  It's a decent climb and my legs felt every pedal stroke.  In fact, my legs started aching at mile 15 and didn't stop until I pulled in my driveway at mile 36.

But my heart, oh my heart, was strong and my mind was set.  I would not cut my ride short and I would not, absolutely would not, get off and walk.

As I rode, I couldn't get over the glorious day that fell in my lap.  (Yes, I know this post is full of superlatives.  Frankly, it's all I can do to keep from writing the entire post in CAPS LOCK.)  Every turn of the trail had something new and beautiful to distract me from my miserable legs.

The piercing white Sundial Bridge against the blue sky.  The hum of Keswick Dam.  The trees mirrored in the water.  The blushing manzanita bushes.  The backside of Shasta Dam towering above us.  I breathed it all in.

As the sun dropped closer to the mountains, we turned back home.  In the shower, I scrubbed the salt marks from my face and massaged my thighs.  They were quivering and already threatening to tighten up.  The hot water pounded my muscles, drummed on my aching knees.  And as I stood there leaning up against the shower wall, I smiled.

Because sometimes being a cyclist hurts so good.

February 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday #10

This week I'm thankful for...

  • the sounds my husband makes in his sleep

  • my mom's chocolate chip cookies

  • my students who popped by my house Friday afternoon

  • Mexican food

  • the smell of clothes in the dryer wafting through the air as I walked the neighborhood

  • the little boy who stayed a few minutes after school to tell just to tell me how much fun he had at school that day.  We didn't do anything out of the ordinary that day, which made the compliment that much sweeter.

  • Monday night Bible study

  • dollar movie night with the hubby

  • a fresh haircut

  • the little girl in my class who came to school with a silver shower curtain ring on her wrist because "anything round can be a bracelet, right?"  I sense a budding fashion designer.