Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Six sweet little ones are sitting in the room next to mine watching Where the Wild Things Are.  I hear the occasional giggle, snippets of conversation about what might happen next, and (my heart swells with pride at this one) one comment about how incredible the soundtrack to this movie must be.  I stood in the doorway for a moment before sitting down to write.  Examining their ever changing faces.  Ethan with his long hair and features that look more and more like a young man every day.  Julia with her gorgeous smile holding sweet spunky Juni who fell asleep in the arms of a sister she loves and trusts.  Asa, somewhere between big and little, snuggled under a colorful crocheted blanket.  Astrid with her round face and freckled cheeks, wide eyed and mesmerized by the Wild Things.  And tough Ezra, fighting against the heaviness of 4 year old eyelids that have a hard time staying up much past 8:00.

When I came into my room and dropped face down onto my bed, exhausted from another day of leading this group, I was reminded of someone else.  A tiny bump in my belly made the presence of someone new known.  Someone still mysterious.  A someone we have not seen, but whose heartbeat we have heard.  I am grateful for the blessing of another opportunity to feel the stirring of life inside me.  But, I have to admit, the past few months have been tough.

Maybe I'm just old.  After all, I will be 36 by the time this new one arrives.  And in case you were wondering, that means right now I would be at the halfway point of my life expectancy if I was a woman in Fiji.  And I KNOW you were wondering that.  Maybe it's not that at all.  My pregnancies have gotten progressively more difficult with each one.  I'll spare you the disgusting details, but let's just say that September, October, and part of November of this year are a blur of fluctuating emotions, tears, days spent in bed, and vomit.  Lots and lots of vomit.

The result of this has been pure domestic chaos.  Things have literally fallen apart around here.  Someone (Juni) has colored with markers on at least one wall in every room of the house and some furniture too.  Pets have relieved themselves in places they should never have been allowed to enter.  There's trash strewn throughout the yard, mingled with kid shoes, sippy cups, and the bones of random dead animals found in the woods.  There are articles of clothing that have yet to be located in our mountainous pile of dirty laundry.  And I completely avoid opening one of the cabinets in my kitchen for fear of injury when everything from pans to candles to bottles of glue comes tumbling out.

But none of this is the worst of it.  The worst of it is the attitudes.  One of the things I value most in my home is harmony.  My kids have always gotten along so beautifully.  It's taken a lot of work to get them there, but kind words and respectful responses have been the norm around here.

I guess maybe you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. And it is.  Gone.

Every moment of every day for the past 2 weeks (since I have begun to feel better) has been spent in a continuous exhausting and agonizing attempt to reteach the basics of how to treat one another and how to respond to authority.  There has been fighting and yelling and crying and teasing and door slamming and whining and complaining and eye rolling and back talking and just plain nastiness.  Like a dark cloud of mean has settled over us and brought a relentless storm of vile behavior to rain on our sweetness parade.  And I don't like it one bit.  I am soaked to the bone.  Standing sopping wet, without an umbrella, assaulted by the downpour and helplessly watching the floodwaters rise.  I could cry (and I have) but who would notice my tears in this weather?  And who could hear me above the roar of the swirling winds?

I'm not gonna lie.  Things have gotten ugly.  I have even considered jumping in the next boat that passes by and just going wherever it takes me.  Anywhere but here.  Preferably someplace with sunshine.  And rainbows.  And while I'm dreaming we might as well throw in some sand, waves, lounge chairs, and my non pregnant bikini body....

I am holding on to this fact of nature: after the storm comes the sun.  I mean, it can't rain forever right?  Even Noah got to see the end of it.  Sure, that was AFTER nearly everyone was wiped out and the entire Earth was essentially in this case it's good that I'm not into details because this analogy could get really depressing, really quickly.  The point is, brighter days are ahead.  I see glimpses of the sunshine forcing its way through the clouds.  An unsolicited compliment from one brother to another.  Kids teaming up to get chores done so neither of them will get into trouble for not finishing.  A 6 and 4 year old staying with the 2 year old in the gym childcare instead of going to the KidFit class they were so looking forward to, just so their little sister won't cry when they leave her.  Glimpses of the sun.  A slowing of the deluge.  Not quite enough to bring out the tanning lotion.  But enough to give us hope that the clouds may soon be parting.

Want to know what's so backward in all of this chaos though?  I'll tell you, even though it's my secret.  As painful as it has been trying to reshape the attitudes of my children and get my home back in order, there is a small part of me that feels....contentedly indispensible.  When I emerged from my morning sickness hibernation and found my little world spinning out of control, I realized just how much balance I must contribute to my family.  It's not just me though.  It's all moms.  It's you.

When your almost three year old refuses to use the potty and dissolves into tears on the bathroom floor from the visceral pain of the effort to say goodbye to the diapers, you are the one to pick up that naked little rebel, offer a few M&M's (because every mom knows that M&M's are the magic bribery token), and prevent her world from falling apart.

When emergencies befall the morning routine, like running out of your daughter's raspberry greek yogurt (that qualifies as an emergency, right?), you are the one to bring the smile back to her face with smiley face pancakes (seriously, though, smiley face pancakes happen like once a year around here so don't go thinking better of me than you should).

When a sibling argument escalates to the point of near physical assault, you are the one to hand out the boxing gloves and cheer them on...oops, I mean break it up and make them hug until they giggle.

When the mother of all tantrums literally shakes the walls of your house, you are the one to lock yourself in your bedroom to prevent yourself from hurting anyone.  Oh, wait.  Maybe that's just me....

I think that it can be easy as mothers to let ourselves believe that much of what we do is for nothing.  That our long days and sometimes longer nights exist only to push the limits of our patience and our caffeine addictions.  That no one really notices what we do.  And maybe they don't all the time.  But I know you aren't doing this for the appreciation and recognition.  You do this for love.  You wipe poopy bottoms because you love them (and squeezing those freshly cleaned tiny dimpled cheeks is fun too).  You stand in a steamy shower at midnight with your croupy coughing little boy, not because you want to be rewarded, but because you love him.  You change the sheets, make macaroni and cheese 26 days in a row, and share your bed with the kicking feet and flopping arms of a sideways sleeper.  And you do it all for love.

It may be a long time before you get anything back.  Sometimes the appreciative hugs and "thank you mom"s will be few and far between.  And sometimes the bad attitudes and disrespect will be plentiful. But isn't love a reward all its own?  The ability, the opportunity, the chance to be able to love someone (or several someones) enough to do anything for them without hesitation or grudge...the chance to feel what you feel for those who make your life worth living.  That's a gift.  Loving them IS your reward.

For that, you can brave this storm.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I like things clean. I can't help it.

Most of the time I think I strike a pretty good balance. I enjoy being that laid back, anything goes, cool mom.  Sometimes, however, I am that mom whose children shudder in fear when they hear the sound of her slippers hitting the floor and they realize they haven't finished their jobs yet.  Yep, when it comes down to getting housework done, I'm a drill sergeant.

Last summer when my little brother was in town, he stopped by one morning while the kids were still doing their morning chores.  Asa was cleaning toilets, Ethan was doing dishes, Julia was going through her workout routine of push ups and sit ups, Astrid was scrubbing the floor on her hands and knees, and little three year old Ezra was struggling through making his bed.
"Is this homeschool or military school?" my brother asked with a smile.
"A little of both," I answered with a wink.  Then I reminded the kids that inspection would be in 10 minutes.

That's right.  Inspection.  I told you, I like things clean.

That's why, when we moved out here, the dirt drove me crazy.  It was everywhere.  There wasn't any grass around our house for a hundred feet or more in every direction.  When we walked outside we were assaulted by dust storms.  Every time the door opened I cringed. Open doors just mean more dirt inside.  At one point I was so overwhelmed with it I cried.  And I am not a crier.  As you could guess, the dirt did not just end up on my furniture and floors, it stuck to my children too.  They were always filthy.  And they loved it.  We all know it's true, although once we reach a certain age most of us don't really understand the appeal, love dirt.  They love to dig in it, rub it on their faces, lie down in it, even eat it.  So as the grass began to fill in around the house and the dust storms died down, my children ventured further out into the parched fields in search of one thing.  Dirt.

We have lived in our country home for two months now.  And for two months, my children's hands and feet have been dirty.  Sure, we use soap.  They take baths.  But there seems to be a perpetual grime around their fingernails, under their toenails, and infiltrating the crevices of their busy little hands.  So I have given up.  Many of my walls are smeared with black hand prints.  And I just don't care.  Those marks tell stories.  They speak of long summer days filled with bike rides, swimming races, catching crawdads, and climbing trees.  They hold the excitement of kid hands clutching chicken eggs straight from the coop, cradling newborn puppies, and creating a grassy nursery for tiny kittens. They tell about deep holes dug in search of arrowheads or in the creation of caverns for army men engaged in battle, or even to bury a sweet pup who didn't make it through his first day of life.

They tell of young lives being lived without hesitation, reservation, or pretension.  Full force, straight on, and completely and totally given over to making each moment count.
No matter how much dirt that involves.

Those handprints on my newly painted walls and footprints on my freshly shined floors help remind me of how I want to live.

I want to jump into the mud with both feet.
I want to run my dirt encrusted, unmanicured fingers up and down the walls of my own life and the lives of others.  Not fearing the mess, but relishing it.  Not letting the dirt bring me to tears, but thriving in the raw authenticity and power of a life lived like my kids do...full force, straight on, and making every moment count.
I want to love without fear, even when it makes me uncomfortable.
I want give without pause, even if it means losing something I think I need.
I want to move past appearances and meaningless expectations of who I should be or how I should do things, and just be.
I want to roll in the dust and throw handfuls of dark earth into the air and let it shower down on me, washing away my need for perfection, self protection, tentative living, and an armored heart.

Some treasures can only be unearthed when you dig really deep.  Without a shovel.  On your knees.
The truth is, no matter how much I like a spotless house, life can't be about making sure everything always looks perfect.  It has to be about leaving a mark.  Telling a story through the prints you leave on lives.  On the world.

I want to get my hands dirty.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ethan informed me today that when he is 16, I'll be 40.  Which led him to point out that when Juniper is 16, I'll be 50.  Which further led him to conclude that when Juniper is 40, I'll be long gone.

Wait.  What?

Back up a second.

When Juniper is 40, I plan to be a hip, young, hot 74 year old great grandmother, thank you very much.  I have big plans for those years.  I will wear my hair long to my waist, silvery white, and in a loose hippie braid decorated with fresh wildflowers.  I will perfect my sultry Latin dance moves (which I will learn at the dance lessons our kids will give us as a gift for our 50th wedding anniversary).  I will go out in public without shoes.  I will be in the newspaper as the cool old lady who ran her first marathon as a septuagenarian.  And I will drive 12 mph slower than the posted limit, speeding up only when someone tries to pass me.

That's right.  Big plans.

"Who knows", I told him, "maybe I'll even be at Juni's 70th birthday party".  Shoeless, dancing the cha cha cha,  and proudly wearing my finisher medal, of course.

Asa brought the conversation to an end when he called out from the back of the van,"OK, MOM, THEN WHEN JUNI IS 100, THEN YOU'LL BE LONG GONE!"

Yes.  Yes I will.  And it got me to thinking.

One day, maybe sooner, maybe later, these precious little ones that I call "mine" will have to live without me.  They will have to know how to make their own breakfast, tie their own shoes, adjust the strap on their own swimming goggles, iron their own clothes, stand up for themselves, give to others, and serve God however they are called to do so.  Looks like I've got a big job ahead of me.  But on top of WHAT they must learn to do, it is important to me HOW they learn to do it.

If you hang out at our house long enough you will inevitably hear me ask my kids to do something.  Put their shoes away.  Wash the windows.  Vacuum up a mess.  Play with the baby sister.  Or, for goodness sake, FINISH YOUR SCHOOLWORK! And, in response, sometimes you may see tiny shoulders slump, frustrated sighs escape, or maybe even sweet little eyes roll.  And that's when you may hear me say, "thank you for obeying, please do it with a happy heart!"  Followed by my cheesy smile and fully expecting a cheesy smile from them in return.

Once, when Ethan was much younger, we read a story about a man who lost his ability to walk and talk.  As a result, he could no longer work and provide for his family.  When they story was over, Ethan said, "That really wouldn't be so bad.  At least if I couldn't walk or talk, I wouldn't have to do chores anymore!"

Oops.  Clearly, he missed the lesson.

It's easy to think of work, whether it be at home or outside the home, as something we HAVE to do.  But I try hard to teach my children that work is something we GET to do.  I want them to be thankful for hands that can hold a mop, feet that can take trash down the long driveway to the road, and a healthy mind that can read the list of morning chores.  I want them to appreciate the ability to accomplish even the most mundane of tasks, and find joy in the opportunity to serve.  I want to teach them not just to work, but to whistle while they work!

Today, as I watched Ethan clean the kitchen, I saw a hint of a smile on his lips, and quickly scooped up my camera to document his happy heart.  For posterity.  And, of course, to scroll through with him the next time I get an eye roll instead of a whistle.

Ethan, before realizing that he is being watched

Hi Mom.  Is counter cleaning really photo worthy?  You are one funny, crazy lady...

And the antics begin

The whistle

Throw in some goofy expressions....

As long as the camera is on me, I might as well dance!

Ham it up, baby!

I stopped snapping just before the real booty shaking started.  Trust me, it was for your own good.

I can guarantee you that I will leave my kids with the ability to clean a kitchen with a smile.  Now I have proof.

But I hope that I have taught them more than how to work well.  I hope that I have taught them how to love well.  If I am not there to kiss their boo boos, dry their tears, or just offer a middle-of-the-day-no-reason-needed hug, I pray that they have learned to offer those things to one another.  Because what they are learning now to give to each other, is what they will later know how to give to the world.

I pray that God can use the imperfect offering of love that I put into my children, and bring out of them something beautiful and amazing for his glory.


Monday, July 16, 2012

I love my life.

Sometimes I am afraid to say so.  Maybe I think I'll jinx it or something.

But, it's true.  I love it.

I love waking up in the morning to warm sunshine streaming through my windows, a toddler snuggled up so close that her breath is tickling my face, a little someone standing beside my bed asking for hair to be braided or breakfast to be cooked or plans to be made, puppies barking at grasshoppers, and hours stretching out before me full of normal every day beauty and promise.

I love watching my kids love each other.
Ethan is quickly becoming less of a little boy and more of a young man.  He is testing limits but still holding onto the sweet innocence of a child.  I am proud of the man he is choosing to be, and I'm proud of the example he sets for his younger brothers and sisters.  I know that sometimes I don't give him enough credit (or slack) in the job he has as the eldest child in the family.  It's a tough assignment.  I often tell him that I realize it must be hard, but he is the one the Lord chose for the position so he can handle it!  Ethan and Ezra have a special relationship that completely warms my heart.  Although they are 7 years apart (Ethan is 11 and Ezra is 4), they totally enjoy each other.  Ezra likes to pretend that he is Ethan's little pet dragon.  Don't tell my big, tough 11 year old that I told you this, but Ethan loves this game too.  When we arrived home after church and lunch today, these two shed their church clothes, hurried into their bathing suits, and ran out to the pool.  Just the two of them, lost in a world of imagination and brotherhood.

While I was taking these pictures of the boys, Juni snuck outside behind me.  You wouldn't realize it until you really get to know her, but this girl is quite a character.  She can kiss you and pinch you in the same second, all with a mischievous little grin on her face.  And just like her brother before her, she prefers to be naked.  All.  The.  Time.  I'm not kidding, I can't keep clothes on the child.  She yells and writhes when I try to put a diaper on her and if she can manage to wiggle out of my grasp she takes off running like her tiny bare hiney is on fire, laughing all the way.  But without the pressures of neighbors and busy streets, it just doesn't matter.  Our little streaker can run, slide, jump on the trampoline, chase the dogs, play in the creek, and feed the chickens without a stitch on.  Our own little hippie baby.

As the late afternoon sun began to make its way behind the hills, Justin grilled steaks, Asa and I made mashed potatoes and green beans, and Astrid and Julia made dessert.....mud pies!  I guess some days sisterhood involves some serious mudslinging.


And what young boy could sit idly by and watch his sisters have all kinds of muddy fun without him?

Would you believe me if I told you that we moved out here to play in the mud?  Ok, that may not be the only reason, but it's part of it.  I guess it's less about the actual mud and more about what the mud represents.

Freedom.  Freedom from the pressures of pristine lawns.  From thinking that my children always need to look cute and clean.  From fears that someone else's kid might get caught in the muddy crossfire and end up in tears.  Freedom from the gossip chain, the mommy bikini competition at the neighborhood pool, and my kids always feeling like they need the newest toy, video game, or electric scooter.

Mud is a beautiful thing.

As I walked alone out to the chickens this evening to herd the ladies out of the woods and into their coops, I was suddenly struck with gratitude.  I had a full belly, a healthy body, a warm breeze on my face, cicadas singing in the trees, birdsong surrounding me, fields and trees and hills before me, and a house full of love and laughter behind me.  I just had to stop and say, "Thank you".

Thank you, Lord, for smiles...

muddy feet

tangled hair

big brown eyes

scratched up blue framed glasses

little fingernails and toenails that need to be cut

missing teeth


dirty handprints on my walls

endless interruptions

half eaten apples in my fridge

bedtime stories

snotty noses

...the every day, normal sweetness that I am blessed to encounter at every turn.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I am surrounded by the sweet sounds of home.  Ethan is singing while he slowly makes his way through his math work.  Asa and Julia are sharing a bowl of dry cinnamon cereal, and amidst the clanging of spoons I can hear snippets of conversation about kittens and bike races.  Astrid and Ezra have retreated to the girls' room and have an Owl City CD turned up so loudly that they have to yell over it hear each other while they play.  Juniper is 30 minutes into one of her late afternoon naps on my lap, quietly and deeply breathing, tempting me to join her.  But, since I have been waiting nearly three months to post, I am resisting the temptation.

It's hard to believe that we have been in our house for over two weeks.  We are finally settled comfortably between a forested hill and winding creek, with no other houses within our view.  And we are loving it.  Ethan enjoys it for the simple fact that he can get up from his schoolwork and go outside to relieve himself (as he did just now as I was typing this).

Home.  Finally.

These two weeks have brought us adventure, excitement, life lessons, and even a little heartache.

Moving day was just as it should be, with friends and family helping, hauling, laughing, eating, and playing.  The days that followed have been filled with visits from many friends, first dinners in our new home, trips to the creek, firefly chasing, swimming, planting, crawdad hunting, and so much more.

But last week we faced the reality, more than once, that we aren't in the neighborhood anymore.  Our sweet 9 week old kitten, Calista, went missing.  Monday she was here, playfully pouncing on our bigger cat Lucy, and meowing at the back door with big green eyes, begging to come in.  And the next day she was gone.  The wild land is not a safe place for little ones like her.  After two days of not seeing her around I feared the worst, but kept the kids hoping for the best.  It's been 9 days now since we have seen her, and reality has set in.  She isn't coming back.  And, despite what I told the kids, I don't think she ran away with a group of gypsy kittens passing through in the night to pursue a new life of riches and glamour.  I think she got eaten.

Just two days after Calista disappeared, we had a terrible, sleepless night.

That day, our two bigger dogs, Abby (fox hound) and Pippa (cocker spaniel), had been in a pretty rough fight.  Abby hurt Pippa badly enough that I brought Pippa in to rest and recover.  About 11:30 that night, just as Justin and I were about to fall asleep, we heard one of our two puppies (pyrenees/golden retriever mix, about 11 weeks old) cry out in pain, then whimper desperately.  Fearing that Abby was assaulting them, Justin jumped out of bed, took a few seconds to find his glasses, and ran to the back door.  The pups, Ingrid and Matilda, usually sleep on the back porch all night, right next to Pippa, who keeps watch.  Neither of them were there.  He came back into the room and told me that he couldn't find them.  I got up quickly and went outside.  I called for them.  Faint puppy barking came from somewhere in the woods in response.  Just a few frantic barks.  Then nothing.  Justin shined his flashlight into the darkness of the thick trees and spotted two reflective eyes.  "I think I see their eyes," he said.  "No, I don't think so," I replied, "dogs eyes don't reflect like that.  Cats do."  We looked at each other with concern and alarm.  While our house was being built, the contractors told us that they had seen a bobcat coming in and out of the woods.  Could this bobcat have attacked our pups?
" couldn't have gotten two at once, could it?" I asked.
"I don't think so," he said slowly, "but now that I think about it, I only saw one of the pups when I came out right before dark to check the pool.  I remember because I reached down to pet her and wondered where the other was, since they are always together."
Justin walked toward the woods, baseball bat in hand (even though we have several guns) and called for the puppies again.  Nothing.
He went back in the house for his keys.  He got in his truck and shined his lights into the woods as I called over and over again for Ingrid and Matilda.  He drove all over, covering about 10 of our 30 acres, trying to find them.  Maybe they were out by the chicken coop, teasing the ladies?  No puppies there.  Maybe they were on their way to the creek for a moonlight swim.  No trace of them on the path that direction either.
Images of a tiny helpless black kitten and two little white puppies being dragged off by a ferocious feline flashed into my head.  Everything always seems worse at night, and worse and worse did it seem, the more I thought about it.
Why would the pup have been crying?  Was there another explanation?  Why wouldn't they come when I called?  Why was there only one when Justin went out earlier?  I couldn't come up with any benign reason.  Every thought was filled with glowing cat eyes and razor sharp claws.
I cried, wondering how I was going to tell my children that their precious furry girls had been ripped apart and consumed.  I didn't sleep much that night, and apparently neither did Justin.  Although we never crossed paths, we both spent those wee hours alternating between restless sleep and getting up to check the porches in hopes of finding Ingrid and Matilda snoozing up against the house.  The last time I checked was about 4:30am.  They were still gone, but I finally drifted off to sleep, worried about the morning, when the kids would go outside to feed the girls and realize that they were gone.

I was abruptly awakened by Justin calling my name.  I opened my eyes and just as that sinking feeling began to take over again, I noticed his smile.  "Guess who's back!" he exclaimed.
"REALLY?!?  They're here?"
"Yep.  I went outside, thinking I was looking for carcasses and they came bouncing out of the woods."
"Little brats," I said, "someone needs to teach those two to come when they're called!"
I was so relieved.  I went outside and scratched behind their rotten little ears, and reprimanded them for putting me through that misery.

Justin started getting ready for work and I went to the kitchen to start a happy day breakfast while the girls filled one bucket with water and one with chicken feed to tend to the ladies.

Less than 5 minutes later Julia and Astrid burst through the door with worried and frantic expressions.
"The chickens are gone!!!!  We went out to feed them and the coop door was open and there are no chickens there and there are piles of feathers everywhere leading into the woods!!!"

And they were right.  The ladies were gone.  The little chicks we had hand raised since they were just days old, the ones that we had spent time and sweat building a coop for, the ladies that I had driven out to our land twice every day to give food and water, the sweet pet chickens that had just the day before laid their first proud eggs, were gone.

When I finally went outside to survey the scene I was horrified to see clumps of chest feathers here, piles of tail feathers there, and even a few heads amongst the carnage.  It looked like a horror movie.  I stood solemnly next to the empty coop and called out weakly, "ladies?  ladies?  Is there anyone left?"
I thought I heard a quiet cluck coming from the woods.  I took a step closer.  "Ladies?  Are you there?"
Slowly, cautiously, a little red hen emerged from the brush at the edge of the trees.  She looked around her as she stepped hesitantly toward me.  When she arrived at my feet and I reached down to pet her, I heard another cluck and looked up to see another battered and slightly defeathered victim making her way out of the woods to join us.  I have never in my life been so happy to see chickens!
These two were the only ones who survived that night.  Two of eight.
We received a blessing, though, when a friend told me of a friend of hers who was giving her 5 chickens away!  The next day, we drove out and picked up 5 new ladies, experienced lay-ers, whom we welcomed with an open coop!

Sweet Matilda
Rowdy Ingrid

Asa after a swim

running to the coop to check for eggs

some of the ladies

two eggs in one of the coops

one egg in the other

farm fresh eggs.  and yes, they do taste better!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sweet Wonderfulness. That's my Astrid. She is an artist, a dancer, a singer, a smiler, a hugger, a dreamer, a flower grower, a horse lover. She is a bundle of love and fun and imagination. She is a high pitched voice of abundant excitement. She is a writer of thoughtful notes and a draw-er of happy pictures. She is a performer. She is spiritual. My magical little muse in front of my camera. She is bright shining eyes, rosy freckled cheeks, a delicate nose, and pink pouty lips.

And now, she is 6.

The beautiful tiny baby who was once hardly big enough to fill my arms, has spent six years filling my heart with so much brilliant Astrid-ness that it's nearly bursting.

Astrid, April 2006

Astrid, April 2012

Birthdays are very exciting when you're 6. Astrid counts down the days until her next one starting around 11:59pm of the current one. This girl loves attention so there's nothing that can beat a day that's all about her!
This year, we were invited to ride horses at the home of one of Justin's co-workers in celebration of our aspiring cowgirl's big day. It was a complete surprise to Sweet Little Miss and she ADORED her time in the saddle.

There is nothing like seeing your child living her dream.
I am blessed beyond measure to have this little girl in my life.

Happy #6, Sweet Wonderfulness. Your Mama adores you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One of my favorite friends is in one of my favorite places. A magical place of anticipation that verges on impatience. Excitement with a twinge of fear. The wonder-filled final days (maybe even hours) of a swollen womb bursting at the seams with a baby who is ready but not quite yet willing to emerge. I am eagerly awaiting her call to say that the new little one has begun his transition into the world. I will grab my camera and rush to her house, excited for the opportunity to photograph the unfolding of another miracle. With the excitement, though, there also comes a hint of longing. Just 20 short months ago, this friend was beside me with her fully round belly on the day I had Juni. And two days later, my baby girl and I were there with her to meet her precious new son for the first time. And though my heart, and hands, and days are full, I can't help but feel like I am missing out on something.

In all honesty, I don't often examine my feelings and wonder if God is trying to teach me something. I'm just not all that reflective in my every day life. That's part of the reason I blog. It forces me to really think about things. To step back and look at the bigger picture and see circumstances for what they might really be. Writing causes me to come face to face with my own heart. And I don't always like what I see staring back at me.

I saw a quote the other day. It was attributed to Theodore Roosevelt and it said "Comparison is the thief of joy". I read that and I literally brought my hands to my heart, dropped my shoulders, and sighed. Every minute I am living encircled by these blessings overflowing, this energy abounding, this breath surrounding...and I am not allowing myself to be content. And here's why: I am racing. Racing through the days, racing through my life, and most shameful of all, racing with other moms. I doubt any of them even know that we are neck and neck in this thing and that I am pushing my limits to stay in as a real contender. The events in my personal mommy olympics include homeschooling, home birthing, extended breastfeeding, baby wearing, organic eating, nutritional supplementing, sewing, hobby farming, and even blogging, to name a few. When did I begin to let myself believe that life is a competition? And why do I always think I have to be the best?

So I sit here. Reflecting, and writing, and learning my lesson. Taking notes on the gentle lecture the Lord is giving to my heart. I am feeling the weight of my sweet toddler on my lap as she nurses herself back to sleep. I am hearing the rhythmic breathing of my very nearly 4 year old dreaming beside me. I am picturing my little girls snuggled together in their covers surrounded by stuffed friends and bedtime books. I am thinking about my strong boys sleeping peacefully in their bunks. I am realizing that God knows what I don't know. He sees what I can't see. And his plans are better than mine.

I am in a race. But there is no one trying to beat me, no one passing me by, no one receiving my medal. Because it's not a race against anyone, it's a journey TO Someone. And when my route intersects with other runners I want to be able to cheer them on to run their best race, rather than kicking it into high gear in an effort to leave them in the dust. It's not going to be an easy lesson for me to learn. I am naturally competitive, so walking hand in hand with my fellow Mamas is a challenge to my nature. But I am finally seeing that pursuing life as a competition to win rather than a journey to share is the ultimate exercise in comparison. And I'm tired of letting it steal from me.

I love my life.

Gotta go lace up my running shoes and reach out my hands to my teammates.

Go, Mamas, go!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My children awoke this morning eager to spend another day soaking in the sunshine. I was still in bed when I was greeted with, "Mama, mama! It's warm out again today! Can we have a picnic and go to the park and play outside"? My eyes opened to a smiling and eager little face. "Not today," I said sleepily, "but we can do our school work outside. And I bet we can work in a picnic on the deck, too."

Chores were done without hurry, windows were opened, and laughter filled the basement. It's amazing how a beautiful day can put everyone in a great mood.

I decided to start the school day with a little hands on learning, so we cooked up some home made granola bars for breakfast. The kids love to measure, pour, stir, and spread, so this was the yummiest of fun for them.

Juni sneaks some chocolate chips while waiting for the big kids to finish chores

baby girl is ready with the honey and a measuring cup!

Astrid volunteers to be in charge of the sweet stuff

Juni found her way into the table to smuggle more chocolate chips

pouring the honey

Ethan "exercising" and Juni giggling while they wait for the bars to cool

the finished product...yum!

The rest of the day was spent getting school work done, chasing the kitten in and out of the house, and doing laundry. Pretty exciting stuff, no? Maybe not, but I'm actually a pretty big fan of the normal day and every beautiful little thing to uncover inside it, so it was relaxing and productive and just what we needed.

With school work done and the basement cleaned up, we decided to go check on the progress of our home site. Windows down, warm air caressing our faces, and music turned up loud enough to sing along at the top of our lungs (to Adele, a current fave of the kids), we bumped down the dirt road eagerly anticipating seeing something new and exciting on our land. And we did! Where there was just dirt yesterday, there is now red clay building up the pad!

the kids joyfully running around the new dirt

the girls dance on the clay

Astrid is queen of the hill

There is nothing like a new beginning. It's a mix of work to be done, decisions to make, obstacles to overcome, and joy to be experienced.

This may just look like red dirt to you. But to us this is home. Our house isn't here yet, but our hearts are. Over a year ago we sat on this land and prayed that it would be ours. We asked God to show us if that was his plan for our family and to make it happen if it was. Unexpected things began to occur, and just a short time later we were able to purchase this property. Just minutes after we closed on it we realized that we had made a potentially devastating mistake in our financial calculations. A mistake so obvious that we were shocked that it had not been clear to us before. I left the closing literally sick to my stomach and in tears. I knew there was no way we were going to be able to make the payments. I felt stupid, and angry, and scared. Justin tried to reassure me, reminding me that all along we had believed God was leading us to this place. I began to doubt. And he told me that there must be a reason we were in this situation and we just needed to wait and see what God was going to do.

Almost one year later, this "disaster" has been one of the most clearly defined testimonies of the Lord's care and provision that our family has ever experienced. Every month we have been able to make a large payment that we honestly had no room in our budget to make. We can't even pinpoint exactly where the money came from every time, but it was always there. I love to hear my kids get excited and tell people about how the Lord provided for us when we didn't see a way to provide for ourselves.

Every day I am working to teach my kids valuable lessons about the world around them, life, love, and faith. But there are some lessons that only God can teach. My humanity and finite wisdom leaves much to be desired. I am forever grateful that he is always faithful to fill in the gaps for them.

And for me.