Category Archives: Family
- After eating mostly Paleo for about eight years, it stopped working. I don’t know what the deal is, but I’ve talked with other Paleo people who have had to switch up their eating habits, as they have started to gain weight, even while eating grain-free, sugar-free, refined-foods-free… It doesn’t seem fair, but I had to decide to do something different. After gaining about ten pounds since Jean was born, which put me at 160 lbs — the most I’ve ever weighed, non-pregnant, I started hiking at the end of November. I went two or three times a week, early in the morning, 3-4 miles at a time. In that time, I didn’t really change my eating habits. So, what did that effort net me? I gained eight pounds. Ugh. And, no, it wasn’t muscle. Well, maybe one pound was muscle. So, in the last month or so, I started tracking calories — something I’ve NEVER done before — on My Fitness Pal. I also started running more often, in addition to hiking. I’m now running or hiking, four or five times a week. And what has all that tedious tracking and MORE exercise netted me? A loss of five pounds for the month. It seems like very little in return for such effort, and I’m still way over the weight at which I feel comfortable. But, it’s five pounds. And I ran my first 10K. That’s 6.2 miles. I came in last for my age group… But I finished! I ran the first four miles (slowly) without stopping, then walked for a minute or two, ran the rest of the fifth mile, and then walked/ran the sixth mile. One hour, 23 minutes. I’m running to improve that time, and also hoping to complete the Phoenix Summit Challenge, which is in November.
- Today is the last day of 4th grade and 2nd grade for Audrey and Fiala, respectively. I’m kind of relieved, and I have a VERY long list of summertime projects from the mundane to the complicated. Grant, who is in 11th grade, is still doing work, mostly because he didn’t do enough during the school year. Sigh. Thanks to the homeschool group that I (very loosely) lead, we have a fabulous end-of-year party tomorrow. I really stink at planning parties, so I’m pleased that, while I had the idea for the party, other people who are much more skilled than I am are planning it. Speaking of the homeschool group, we have 210 families who now are members. THAT IS A LOT OF FAMILIES. I kind of envisioned 15-20 families, but the group meets a greater need than I knew existed. We have attended weekly park days, near-weekly field trips, and I lead a (typically small) mom’s night of grading and chatting every week. And the girls are in piano lessons. It has been a good year of homeschooling for them, which was my goal. Tomorrow is my son Wesley’s last day of 9th grade at a local charter school. It was mostly very successful: He loves it, but his grades aren’t the best I think they could be. As long as he finishes the year with a 3.0 or higher (which he almost certainly will), he will most likely be returning in the fall. “Baby” Jean is no longer a baby: she will be three years old next month!! She is bright, full of fun, and VERY active.
- My oldest son, Ethan, who attended Arizona State University on a near-full scholarship this last year, very likely won’t be returning to school in the fall. From my perspective, this really isn’t a good situation, and I cried for two hours when it all came down. But, my son is almost an adult, and he’s making more adult-y decisions, and that’s hard when your children don’t choose for themselves what you, as the parent, see as wisest. But, God is faithful, and Ethan’s times are in His hands, and this is an opportunity for faith on my part, bathed in prayer. Still, it feels like a failure on my part. I don’t know if it is, but it FEELS like a failure.
- My garden is thriving. It’s nearing the searing heat of summer, and I’m hopeful for its continued success. I have two beds: one is 8′ x 12′, and the other is 12′ x 12′. I am tracking, by poundage, how much I harvest. These past winter months, things DO grow here, but more slowly. I’d typically harvest 4-6 lbs of produce. Now that it is warmer, I’m harvesting 8-12 lbs each week. A couple of weeks ago, when I harvested the last of my beets, it was 16 lbs, 6 oz for the week. I am currently reaping: I’itois onions (bunching onions); Greek and Italian basil; Cardinal Chard; Top Bunch Collards; Tyfon Holland Greens; Harris Model Parsnips; four kinds of tomatoes; Greyzini (a summer squash like Cousa or Mexican Grey Squash); Sweet Banana Peppers; and just yesterday, the first of the Homemade Pickles Cucumbers. Soon, I’ll have Sweet White Spanish Onions (the largest have tops that are over 4′ tall! I hope they’re as giant as their tops suggest); Asparagus Yardlong Beans; Garlic; and Honeydew Melon. I’ve also been collecting seed from radishes, lettuces, and cilantro. And, I have at least nine kinds of flowers blooming, including 8′ tall Lemon Queen Sunflowers. And in another 3-4 weeks, I’ll have okra and Armenian Cucumbers.
That’s about it from our home. Well, actually, that’s not nearly it. There is always more that is happening than I can write about. And, I don’t know if this update is all that interesting, actually. But, I felt like I was overdue for posting one.
Today, I wrote to a “secret” group of homeschool (and former homeschool) moms, asking for perspective. I had a feeling they’d tell me that I’m doing just fine. So far, in fact, they have. But in this, and in other homeschool-related endeavors, I just can’t seem to find the right balance, where I’m pleased with what we’re doing.
My oldest three children are boys, and my youngest three are girls. I think I was/am pretty rigorous with my older boys. That approach has worked well on my oldest (now a university freshman on nearly a full-tuition scholarship), and for my 11th grader who is still homeschooling, but nearly independently. My rigorous requirements didn’t work fab on my 9th grader, who is thriving in his first year in a small, public charter school where they seem to value his… free spirit a little more than I do.
So, I’m really only schooling my 4th and 2nd grade girls. I also have a 2-year-old who makes things challenging and helps us to laugh and gives lots of hugs and kisses. Last summer, I told myself that I was going to make school FUN for my girls, after several years of really just focusing on my boys. I started a homeschool support/play group that has unintentionally ballooned — I now lead this group that has 179 families in it. It is a very relaxed group, a social network, really. Me “leading” is really a misnomer. I organize most events and communicate with everyone in person and online. With that group, we have weekly three-hour park days. We have one or even two field trips or activities with the group nearly every week. (This week, we’re going to the library for a decorate-your-own-journal art hour, and going to a local organic farm on Friday.) The girls are in weekly piano lessons and loving it. They play together more beautifully than I ever hoped. We spend lots of time outdoors every day. I have a veggie garden and they all putter with me. Our science yesterday was inspecting cilantro blooms and seeds in various stages of development, talking about how plants bolt, bloom, become pollinated, and develop seed that we can save. They also do seat work nearly every day (journal — writing and drawing; math; handwriting; and phonics/grammar). We have done lots of reading for fun — we’re working our way through the Little House series and are currently just beginning The Long Winter. The girls read on their own, fiction and nonfiction, a ton. My almost-10-year-old is the Arts and Crafts Queen and is working on some project all the time… She also is taking every-other-week drawing lessons from two ladies from church.
In other words, this school year is virtually everything I had hoped. HOWEVER… I’m not really an unschooler at heart. I feel much better with structure. I feel such guilt that we are on week 5 (FIVE!) of (old) Sonlight Core 2. Week five. We’ve barely gotten through anything, really.
When I read out everything I’ve written above, it seems like I should be pleased. But, honestly, I feel a little out of sorts, like I’m doing them a disservice for not being more regimented and rigorous. We are ENJOYING the school year. Yet, I have thoughts like, “I required so much more of my sons. Am I being unconsciously sexist by doing so little real schoolwork with them??” Seriously.
I don’t know what I need to be satisfied. This school year is one of the best, experientially, we’ve ever had — and this is my 14th year!! But, I just feel so uncomfortable not checking those boxes in the Sonlight Instructor’s Guide. I feel guilty.
At the other moms’ suggestions, I’m going to add more science and have them read aloud to each other and me.
But, mostly, I think I just need to adjust my own attitude and enjoy what is left of the year.
I truly still love writing. I’ve just been insanely busy. My load right now is somewhat lighter, which allows me the luxury of reflecting, here in my neglected blog. (Note: I have no idea why the sizes of fonts change throughout this post. Rather than taking the time to figure it out, I’m leaving it. Sorry-not-sorry.) Edited to add a few more things about Fiala, and to note that you may click on each picture to enlarge it, if you care to.
- My oldest son, Ethan, did receive the scholarship he was hoping for, to attend Arizona State University. I am part of a couple different groups where homeschooling parents support each other, especially where prep-for-college is concerned. I’m struck again and again how, as a homeschooling mom of a senior, it seems like the college admissions process is WAY more about how prepared and organized **I** have been as my child’s mother/teacher, and much less about how well-educated my son is. I’m happy to report that, even though I have discovered, in retrospect, that there are a hundred things I could have done better or differently, what Ethan and I did, together, was exactly right for what he needed. I’m feeling the mercy of God on that one, because truly, I’m not kidding about those “hundred things”. Ethan turns 18 this month. He isn’t altogether eager to transition to adulthood; it’s challenging for all of us, to be frank. I have told him, “We’ve never parented an adult before, please bear with us.” We’re all learning. It’s funny, because I have often urged him to DO HIS OWN RESEARCH AND MAKE HIS OWN DECISIONS, because, even though I’m complimented by the fact that he still likes the things I choose for him — it makes me feel like I really know him — it’s healthier for him to be at least a little more independent than where he’s comfortable. So, in light of this, I turned over to him the plans for his birthday party. And, whaddya know? He has planned it for a day when I’m going to be out of town. Not purposefully; that’s just the date that works best with his friends, who are hosting. However, it’s kind of good news/bad news, “You took charge? GREAT! But you left me out of it completely?? Sad face.” LOL!
Grant is my son who will be 16 later this summer. I don’t think I’ve blogged about this, but what I’m going to write about here, about Grant, is kind of a big deal to me. Grant is the opposite of Ethan; he has known for YEARS where he’d like his future to be, what he’d like to do, where he’d like to go to university… He really can’t wait to get on with his adult life. A big part of that includes his plans to attend the United States Air Force Academy. To be completely honest, up until nine months ago or so, I kind of blew that off. It’s hard to get into the USAFA. Really hard. It’s even harder for homeschoolers. And, they don’t just look at academics; they look at the whole person. I had decided, in my own mind, that the chances of Grant getting into the AFA were incredibly slim. However, early last fall, I started to feel convicted. I remember having dreams while in high school, and feeling like no one wanted to help me achieve them. I remember what it felt like to be blown off. So, I started checking things out, what I could do to help Grant gain ground on his goals. I decided that I didn’t want to be an impediment to his hopes; I wanted to assist him in every way possible. So, I signed him up for the Future Falcons at the USAFA website — which is kind of a Big Deal, as it is super-official; you need the child’s Social Security number, even! I downloaded the 21-page “Instructions to Precandidates” pdf and we mapped out his sophomore to senior years of high school accordingly. And, I looked into getting Grant involved in an Air Force-related program. I first thought of Junior ROTC… But, then, I heard about Civil Air Patrol Cadets from some other homeschooling moms. Long story short, Grant has only been in CAP Cadets for a little over six months, but he is excelling. He’s actually at a week-long semi-boot-camp experience called “Encampment” at Fort Huachuca as I type this. Grant still has a long way to go, and many smaller goals to achieve before we can even apply to the Academy. But, all of us feel pretty good about his chances, which is 180° from where we were, about a year ago. In this coming school year, Grant’s junior year, he will be taking two classes at KEYS — a two-day homeschool co-op — and the rest at home. Grant will be taking Honors Chemistry and College Lit and Composition. Frankly, these are two teaching-intensive classes, and I was looking to outsource the most mom-dependent classes for Grant. Additionally, we’re looking at having Grant take all of his classes for his senior year at a local community college, and we wanted to ease his transition. Other than American History, Grant won’t need much from me in the coming school year; his other subjects — French, Economics, Algebra II, and a couple of others, won’t need a lot of input from me. I’m totally OK with that.
My son Wesley will be in 9th grade in the fall, which hardly seems possible. He’s the youngest of our three sons, and it is a challenge for me to not think of him as “little”. He has had a massive growth spurt this past year, and his voice has dramatically deepened. Whether I’m ready or not, Wesley is no longer little. He is an excellent big brother to our toddler, Jeanie. He’s in the teen youth group at church. It just feels odd to me, still. Through much thought and research and prayer, we have decided to try Wesley at an “brick and mortar” school for this coming fall. None of our kids have ever gone to a “real” school before. But… I have long felt that I just don’t quite speak Wesley’s educational language. He hasn’t suffered under my instruction, and testing shows he is on course or ahead for his grade level. However, I don’t feel like I’m best-suited to maximize his potential, since his potential is in areas where I’m not strong. There is a charter school (publicly funded, privately run) less than a mile from us; I have checked them out before, and I like their literature-based, liberal arts approach. It’s a small school: this coming year, they’ll very likely have less than 150 students, only 9th – 11th graders. Most kids bring their own lunches (which seems trivial, but with Wesley’s celiac disease, dairy allergy, and peanut allergy, I didn’t want him to feel like he’s the odd man out, bringing his own lunch every day). And then, a good friend of ours took a job as the English teacher there. This man is everything you’d hope for in a teacher: brilliant, kind, patient, thoughtful, a good leader…. I do believe he’d be an excellent teacher for Wesley for English, which has long been Wes’ poorest subject. The daughter of that teacher, as well as another friend of Wesley’s, will also be attending the school. My husband Martin and I have discussed, toured the school together, talked on the phone with the principal, e-mailed back and forth with staff, read every click on the school’s website, and PRAYED. However, neither of us have felt any strong inclination or direction from God. We both feel like He’s saying, “All right. It’s up to you. You can give it a shot.” I’d feel a thousand times better if I had heard something more specific than that. But… It’ll do, for now. This next week, I’ll be enrolling Wes.
This past year was our busiest ever, for school. With Ethan as a senior, Grant as a sophomore, and Wes in 8th grade, there were far too many days when Audrey (who just finished 3rd grade) and Fiala (who just finished 1st) would just do seat work — phonics, math, journal, and a couple of other subjects where they can work largely independently, with little help from me. In other words: the bare minimum. I have no doubt that the girls’ educational skills are up to par, or perhaps beyond their typical peers. However, I want a richer, more robust school experience for them. With Ethan at college, Grant working mostly-independently, and Wesley enrolled in a charter school, I’m VERY MUCH looking forward to a hands-on school year for the two “big” girls: art projects, science experiments, field trips, actually READING THE READ-ALOUDS in our curriculum! It should be a wonderful year. As stated in the caption of the pic at left, Audrey — who turned nine years old a couple of months ago — is artsy, funky, fun, and LOUD. All the boys did Rosetta Stone French this year, and Audrey joined in, as well. I am tickled to hear her lovely little French accent. It’s charming. Fiala, who is six years old, is loving, thoughtful, intense, unique, and can be petulant and impulsive. She loves swimming, loves playing dress up and changing her clothes in general — her clean, folded laundry stack is ALWAYS taller than anyone else’s. She loves waking up earlier than any of the other children and coming into my bed to “snug” with me. It doesn’t usually happen like that, but it’s a good day for Fi when it does. All in all, she is a delight of a child, my little green-eyes-freckle-nose, as I often call her. If Fiala was in a public school, she would have been in Kindergarten this last year, as she has a late-fall birthday. That seems crazy to me, as she was well-ready for first grade work.
Jean will be two years old next week, which also seems crazy. I tell her that if it wasn’t for her screeching in restaurants and playing with her poop, she’d be a perfect child. Seriously: up until now, my sixth child, I have had NO children interested in their poop. Jean, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to understand what “gross” means. So, when she takes a nap, I have to put this ONE outfit on her, every time — it’s a BabyGap long-legged, button-up, one-piece, short-sleeved cotton romper. It’s the only thing that doesn’t allow access to her diaper area. Actually, “Pull-Up area”, as she is nearly completely potty-trained. We went from cloth diapers to early potty training in December, and I rejoiced, but it has taken her A Very Long Time to be serious about it. She just isn’t serious. She is a joyous little bundle of… everything. She’s still chubby and overall large for her age. She has a passion for Bubble Guppies, swimming, and dancing. She is bossy. Charmingly bossy. “Hum!” she will demand, which is Jeanie-speak for, “Come!” She will pull on your hand and do everything she can to make you comply. Or, “Hi! Hi!” she will insist, patting the seat next to her. For unknown reasons, “Hi! Hi!” means, “You sit HERE, NOW!” Or, “Tiss!!” meaing, “Kiss!” Then, “O’er side!!” Meaning, “I want a kiss on the other cheek, as well!” We all adore Jean.
- This past spring just about did me in. I always felt like families who couldn’t eat dinner together were doing something wrong. Well, guess what? We became that family in 2015. Sunday nights, Martin often has events at church to attend. Monday nights, I take Grant to CAP Cadets and usually sit in a nearby coffee shop, grading papers for the 2.5 hrs of CAP. Tuesday nights, Martin led worship at a weekly small group. I was leading worship just on Wednesday nights, until a group got too big and needed to multiply, but didn’t have a worship leader. I agreed — just for the spring — to lead worship in that group, as well. So, from the end of February to the beginning of June, I was gone both Wednesday and Thursday nights. Additionally, I started hosting a CSA/farm share again for a local organic farmer, every Wednesday. I had kind of taken an six-month hiatus, but started up again in April. And, Ethan works three nights a week at Sprouts. Martin has a fairly long commute, and often isn’t home until 6:00 or so… It became like passing the baton, and the 30 minutes we’d have together before one of us needed to head back out the door was usually not at the dinner table. When you have a family of eight, dinner is loud and usually fun, but it really isn’t the place for Martin and I to connect. I’d have dinner made, but we usually didn’t sit down together. Homeschooling, church, CAP Cadets, three weekly small groups, the CSA, Martin’s commute, Ethan’s work… Lordy, I was stretched. But, small groups take a break for the summer and school is DONE, so my load is infinitely lighter. I feel much freer!!
- My other big things for the spring are: my garden — which is a scaled-down version of my original vision. I have one 8′ x 12′ bed in, and it’s growing wonderfully. I’m working daily (or nearly so) to put in a walk around the bed, and hope to have a second bed ready for mid-August planting. It is so hot here (yesterday hit 115°!!!!) that there is little that will grow in the heat of mid-summer. The bed that is growing, I planted in late April. I can’t really sow anything else until there is hope for cooler temperatures. I have sunflowers, two kinds of melon, Armenian cucumbers, okra, two kinds of heat-tolerant green beans, summer squash, and a winter squash growing, plus a variety of flowers. I also have way too many volunteer tomato plants, whose seed came from my compost, I suppose. I have transplanted as many as possible, replanting and giving away about 20 tomato plants. There are still far too many tomato plants growing in the garden — growing too closely with the other plants. It’s not really the right time to grow tomatoes here — ideally, I would have had them in by January or February. But, I can’t bear to yank them. We’ll see what happens. My garden gives me joy, exercise, and a sense of fulfillment. It keeps me sane. To me, gardening really is a kind of therapy.Of course, all of this is barely scratching the surface. There is much more happening in our home… An upcoming camping trip, me traveling to the Portland area for a girlfriends’ weekend, sewing projects, lots of canning, Bible studies, small and large challenges and triumphs, a continuing home remodel, birthdays — including my own, baseball, me going low-carb again to lose weight, books to read, and more. But, I will call it a day and go swimming with my kids.Blessings to you and yours.
I am still — STILL!! — working on converting an area approximately 21′ x 45′ from invasive, hard-to-kill Bermuda grass lawn into a vegetable garden. It has occurred to me, time and again, why raised beds are so popular. They’re a heckuva lot easier! However, I’m looking for long-term sustainability as well as decreasing water use, and to those ends, a sunken bed is the way to go in the desert. I already know that water drains off our property toward the to-be-garden corner. It takes less water to hydrate sunken beds, water doesn’t evaporate as quickly, and the soil temp stays cooler when the top of the garden bed is at or below ground-level.
But, Lordy! is it ever hard work.
A couple of weeks ago, on my blog Facebook page, I posted:
Crap. I have just discovered that a giant section of our yard (about 15′ x 40′) is actually a stinkin’ CONCRETE SLAB, which was covered by about 4″ layer of dirt mixed with -1/4″ (“quarter minus”) granite gravel, which was topped with another 4″ or so of sod. A section of this takes up about a THIRD of my planned garden, right in the middle. This is going to take a jack hammer or a backhoe to remedy. Can you feel my disappointment? Ugh. Such a setback.
My friend Erin commented:
I love that you say “jackhammer or backhoe” instead of “smaller garden.” That’s the Karen I know and love!
This gave me much pause for thought.
She is totally right: Downsizing due to difficulty was not an option. This is mostly because, if I’m going to do this, it’s probably my ONE chance! At least, it’s my one chance right now. And, I want to do it right, if I’m going to do it at all — a maxim that was repeated ad nauseum during my childhood. Secondly, if there is a giant chunk of concrete just below the surface of our yard, it probably shouldn’t just stay there; it would only cause further difficulty down the line, and eventually need to be removed, anyway. So, why not remove it now?
Note: The bad news is, it’s still not removed. The good news is that it is only a footer — about 18″ wide, a good, solid two feet deep, and about eight feet long. More good news: My husband has taken on removal of the concrete footer as his own personal mission. More bad news: this mission is subject to myriad other missions, currently being tackled by my husband.
But, back to my “pause for thought”:
It occurs to me that I typically bite off more than I can chew. As a matter of course, I take on projects that are too big for myself. I dream and plan into existence opportunities that end up being WAY more complex and time-consuming than I had envisioned.
At first, I started to chastise myself for this.
But, upon further reflection, I’ve decided that I like this God-given part of my personality, and here’s why:
I get loads more accomplished by biting off more than I can chew, than I would if I took life in reasonable mouthfuls.
I find that, as I’m in the throes of panic, feeling overwhelmed at all that’s on my plate, any number of things happen:
- I am compelled to study, research, and learn, to fill in the gaps of my knowledge.
- I am compelled to the feet of Jesus for His comfort, wisdom, and guidance.
- I am compelled to lean on my husband (and in increasing measure, my sons who are young men).
- I am compelled to ask the Body of Christ — my local church — for help.
I don’t think that anyone would see a problem with the first item on my list. For items #2-4, I must note that this is a good thing for me, as I tend to too much independence. I believe that God created us to function interdependently, within our families, our communities, our churches… We need each other. I contribute my strength and abilities, you contribute yours, and we both end up further down the road, than had we been alone.
I could add a number of other benefits to the list above:
- Hard work is good for you — body and soul.
- Being productive is good for everyone around you.
- Being able to genuinely and completely rest after a job well-done is a glorious feeling.
I’m sure there are more. Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments, if you’d like!!
So, go ahead: Bite off more than you can chew. Sure, you’ll have moments of feeling overwhelmed, moments of panic. But you’ll do more, go further, and just plain ol’ bear more fruit than if you live a more reasonable life.
I bought a yogurt maker and I must say, the first batch?? NOT a success. There are lots of conflicting instructions out there for making yogurt. Next time, I will SCALD the raw milk (not boil it, per the instructions I followed), use already-made plain yogurt as a starter (not acidophilus caps that so many places said you could use), and keep better track of the temperature. I’ll also just make plain, rather than the honey-sweetened blueberry yogurt I attempted. The results separated into yogurty curds and whey. The flavor was good, but the texture was horrible. We half-froze ours to make it palatable, and that worked all right. But the next go-round needs to be much more successful!!
- My oldest son now has a job: He’s a bagger at Sprouts, a local, natural grocer. It was really the only job he wanted, and though it took a few months of trying, he got the job! The day he was hired, he had to read 100+ pages of various employee handbooks (which he truly read, because he is thorough, like his father). I also took him to open a checking account, which had about 20 pages of various information and things to sign. As we were leaving the bank, his brow was furrowed, and I could tell he was on information overload. “So, Ethan, now that you have a job and a checking account, do you feel like an adult?” I asked. He replied, “Well, if adults regularly feel confused, then, yes, I feel like an adult.” Ha! Welcome to adulthood, my son. We are having him tithe 10%, save 50%, and the rest is his for spending and short-term savings. He looked at his first paycheck, which was for just one week, and proclaimed that the paper he was holding amounted to more than he had made doing odd jobs in the entire previous year. I had really wanted him to get a job for his own benefit — for learning how to be responsible with money; for learning how to be part of a team within a work environment; and to just take a step up in transition to adulthood… But, unexpectedly, I feel very blessed. He’s not a fully grown adult, but it blesses me, knowing that my husband and I have raised a young man who is an asset to a good company, and to the workforce in general. It feels very right.
Last Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday, and today, I have worked HARD in my yard for 2-3+ hours daily. I am trying to transform a section about 21′ x 42′ into my real, true garden. It’s difficult to explain to people unfamiliar with caliche JUST HOW ROCK-HARD our “soil” is. Technically, it’s not soil; it’s dirt. The Bermuda grass — the only kind that will grow in the desert’s heat and lack of water — needs to be removed, so I rented a sod-cutter last Thursday. Man-oh-man, that was SO punishing. So difficult. I put it at the deepest setting — 2½” — to dig up as much of the Bermuda as possible. Now, I am digging and toting the cut dirt/sod to other areas of our yard, making berms around trees. I’m only about 1/3 done with it being cleared. And here, it has mostly been in the mid-90°s. So, add “hot and sweaty” to physically challenging. I am keeping my eyes on the prize of having a productive, inviting, rewarding garden, some months from now. Once I finish clearing the area, I still need to soak the dirt, Rototill it, rake out as many Bermuda grass roots as possible, then cover the area with clear plastic to solarize — and thus kill — it. All of that is BEFORE I get to plant anything. I also need to put up a fence with a footer, not just to keep out the dogs, but to keep the Bermuda grass from creeping back in. I’m collecting interesting garden fence ideas on Pinterest.
- I was going to post about our new dog (a third Staffordshire Bull Terrier)… And about me going low-carb almost-Paleo again. But my baby Jean is waking! So, here are a couple more pics:
On Saturday, my seven-year-old daughter, Audrey, picked a Really Big daikon radish from the fields at Crooked Sky Farms during CSA Member Day.
My husband Martin asked me, doubtingly, “What are you going to do with that?”
I replied, “I’m pretty sure you can make kimchi out of daikon.”
Martin gave me one of those looks and said, “I hope you don’t expect me to eat that.”
I think the grand count is now up to six or seven things I’ve made in our nearly-20 years of marriage that he doesn’t like. Maybe eight. I think his presupposition that he won’t like radish kimchi is based solely upon reputation, and report of friends who have gone to South Korea on ministry trips.
I found a recipe, and I’m making it right now — waiting for 30 minutes while the cubed radish “sweats”.
I’m really happy with all the ingredients. Nearly all of them are organic: the daikon, of course; the green onion; the dried red chile; the sugar — all from Crooked Sky Farms, save the sugar. I’ve also used sea salt, fresh garlic, and gluten-free soy sauce, simply because I’m out of fish sauce.
I just realized that I do not have fresh ginger, so my kimchi will be ginger-less.
And that big daikon only made one quart plus about 1½ cups of kimchi. I’m only fermenting the quart container. The end result didn’t seem as “wet” as the recipe suggested, so I ended up pouring all the “radish juice” back into the mixture. From other fermented items I’ve made, the veggies must all be submerged in the liquid, and it took adding it all back in to bring the liquid to the top of the quart jar.
I had the thought, “I wonder if slightly adventurous cooks in Korea get a hold of, say, tomatoes, and determine that they will make ketchup, that ubiquitous and widely eaten American condiment.” And their spouses look askance and wonder if they have to eat it.
The author of the recipe suggests that kkakdugi pairs well with a simple bone-broth soup. Sounds good to me; I have bone broth in the fridge right now! I wonder which of my family will eat Korean Ox-Bone Soup accompanied by Kkakdugi… I’ll try to remember to report back.
On a tangential note, there is a lady in the weekly small group Bible study I attend, and one of her daughters is a health-nut. Nearly every week, my friend will report to me of the inedible culinary disasters her daughter has created in the name of health. When I make a dish, I simply cannot make it in the name of health alone; it must actually TASTE GOOD. What’s the point of cooking your asparagus in coconut oil if no one enjoys the flavor, and it ends up in the trash? (Personally, I think coconut oil is over-used. However, that is a tangent to my tangent.) I’ve only brought snacks twice in the last number of months, and both times, she asked repeatedly, while eating with gusto, “This is gluten free?? It’s healthy??” To which I usually reply, “Well, it’s not healthy, as it has way more sugar than anyone should be eating. But, it’s gluten-free and it’s nearly all organic.” She just can’t believe that homemade goods can be better-for-you AND tasty. I believe that they should be tasty. I don’t believe in eating something solely because it’s good for you; food should be enjoyed.
When I started blogging nearly eight years ago, I “only” had three children. Along the way, it has always been possible to squeeze out a number of blogs per month, often 3-4 per week! But, starting with baby Jean’s birth in June, these have been been my slowest months ever. Here’s why:
- Time and priorities. I love writing. But, I also love reading. I love keeping up with my friends and family on Facebook. I have other responsibilities, besides homeschooling my children and running my home — I still lead worship weekly at a homegroup, and I essentially have a part-time job as a host and coordinator for a CSA (weekly, local farm-share). I just can’t do everything, sadly. Most days, just doing school, laundry, and making meals about taps me out. I could drop any one of these things and have time for blogging, but I don’t want to. So… it’s just a busy season that precludes blogging. I have very often started drafts and by the time I finish, they’re just no longer relevant or pressing. So, slowly nibbling away at drafts doesn’t seem to work for me, either.
- The current culture of blogging. When I started blogging, most people hadn’t even heard the term “blog”. I wrote with the abandon of one who was pretty certain that no one was reading. In many ways, I was flippant and too-disclosing. I wasn’t careful at all. I could just dash off some thoughts without considering possible repercussion. I’ve become wiser over the years, and have realized that people ARE reading, and therefore, I need to measure my words. In addition, if I want to make a statement about health, science, Scripture, pretty much anything, the only responsible way to do that is to provide supporting links, which is the blogging form of end notes. However, gathering and inserting appropriate links is time-consuming. And THEN, you add Pinterest. If someone wants to post something on Pinterest, you really need a picture. So, I either hunt for a pic online with no copyright protection OR I hunt for a pic to upload and insert from my own. Both of those add snippets of time to an already labor-intensive process.
- My mind is blank. JUST KIDDING. Actually, there are more things than ever that I want to share… Inside my brain, my blog is crazy-active!!
Here, though, are a few small things happening around here:
- We are still slowly remodeling our home and redecorating. Both my husband and I are frugal, and our tastes overlap, but aren’t identical. That’s why the process is slow: if ONE of us didn’t care, we could get things done a lot faster. But, we both care. Here’s a shot (not a great one) of our living room. It’s a mix of new and vintage/Craigslist purchases.
- We finally had to buy our first new piece of baby equipment. Virtually everything on Jean’s body and which she uses here in our home is a hand-me-down, a gift, or purchased second-hand. Oh, wait! I did purchase a jogging stroller for about 1/4 the price of a new one, at a true outlet — a store that handles all the returns and overstock from Costco, Home Depot, and Rite-Aid. It was new in the box… So, I guess that counts as a new purchase. So, purchase #2: a highchair. I can’t wait until it arrives; baby Jean is six months and eating (limited) table food, but up until now, she has just been perched on my lap. That is becoming increasingly messy. I searched on Craigslist for the last month, looking for a chair that had some sort of modern appeal (to at least partially fit in with our updated decor), was well-reviewed, wasn’t too bulky, that both my husband and I like, and wasn’t too expensive. I struck out. So, this highchair is being shipped, as I type this.
- Just last week, I finished my favorite book of the last… year or so. I have a few current authors that I follow; I read everything they write. Those tend to be dependable authors; I like their craft of storytelling. However, they’re not necessarily books that, upon closing, I reflect, “That was so very worthwhile. I am enriched by having read that.” Not that they’re trash; they’re just entertainment, and not necessarily profound. The book I recently finished? Profound. I had read quite a few (nonfiction) essays by Wendell Berry, as well as a number of his poems. But, I hadn’t read any of his fiction. Following the families in a community in rural Kentucky? Sounded campy, à la Mitford (which I’ve never read, so, yes, I’m passing judgement based upon incomplete information). But, my oldest son, a junior, read Fidelity as part of his homeschool curriculum. When he finished, he handed it to me. “That was one of the best books I’ve ever read. I think you’d like it.” Which made me love him all the more… And he was right; I did like it. I plan on reading more in the series, after I get through the next two books on my list (Leaving Everything Most Loved — I like Jacqueline Winspear’s storytelling. However, as her works progress, each book seems more like “Zen Buddhist with an agenda, who is telling a mystery story on the side.” It’s rather annoying. I’m a Christian and I don’t even like it when CHRISTIAN authors try to proselytize via fiction. I like it even less when the author’s beliefs don’t parallel mine. And, An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch. I found Charles Finch, whose stories are set in Victorian England, when I had exhausted the surprisingly large genre of literary mystery serials set in WWI-era England.)
- And… This little sweetie. How I adore her. She is perfect, except she doesn’t like to sleep. Really, she doesn’t like to sleep at all. You can try your suggestions, but I’ve probably tried them all, short of letting her cry long enough to give up and feel abandoned. She is a darling baby, an absolute delight to our whole family. Everyone is smitten, still. She is beautiful and chubby, cheerful and funny, and loves to snuggle. So, so perfect. Except the sleep thing. I’m tired.
My husband and I are nearing 19 years of marriage. I have been reflecting on our history recently.
That is partly because my own parents divorced after they had “celebrated” their own 19th anniversary, and I have had to
say, “SHUT UP!!” to the enemy keep my thoughts captive regarding this particular milestone, and have been purposefully dwelling on the successes of our time together as a family.
3 Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
4 Children born to a young man
are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.
5 How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!
He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.
Psalm 137:3-5 (NLT)*
It’s a pretty common understanding in the Christian culture that children are a blessing.
Confession: For a long, long time, I did not feel that blessing. I felt overwhelmed, not up to the massive task appointed to me. I saw my every flaw replicated and magnified in my children. I felt like I was endlessly disciplining, when I really didn’t WANT to discipline; I wanted to snuggle on the couch and have everyone love each other, and everyone respect each other, everyone defend each other, everyone exuding kindness and loyalty…
I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore, and though I do see my flaws in my children, I am less horrified these days. Instead, I see that as the provision of God to accent my need for His holiness and his character, in both myself and my children; it shows me what I need to work on. However, I still feel, oftentimes, like that last sentence in the paragraph above. There is not enough kindness and love in our home. There is not enough of the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is not enough of His peace. His patience is frequently far from manifest in the lives and hearts of every member of our family.
I am still starting to get a picture, a revelation, of how much BLESSING I live in.
It is dawning on me from a number of different horizons.
- A mother came up to me after worship on Sunday and told me how she had seen my 14 year old son, Grant, enter right into exuberant worship and praise — nothing rote — and he urged a friend to do the same.
- I am meeting more women — it’s my age, I guess — who do not have the family they envisioned for themselves, earlier in their lives. They don’t have as many children, or none at all, or they don’t have a healthy marriage, or none at all… It’s not that my marriage is flawless, but I do have a good marriage. And I have six children, which feels… complete for the first time in my motherhood. It doesn’t feel as if anyone is missing. I am realizing how easily what I presently have could have never been.
- I do long for more loyalty and kindness in particular between my children; every time a child throws a sibling under the bus, so to speak, by tattling, my stomach hurts and my heart aches. But, there IS a lot of love present in our home. I am trying to treasure all these things in my heart — to remember the loving, tender moments.
- People whose perspectives and opinions I trust are increasingly encouraging me, pointing out the good fruit in our home. A maternal uncle visited this past weekend. He left a note for my husband and I to read. Part of it said, “You have accepted the challenge of raising a Christian family at a time in history when our culture, society, and even our government fights you. Good job. Keep going. You are being watched by people you don’t even know, and they do so with a yen for what you have.”**
- At my step dad’s memorial service last Saturday, many people came up to me to congratulate me on the good behavior of my children, and extended their blessings to our family.
- Baby Jean seems to have brought a new level of tenderness in our family — especially in my two other girls. My pastor’s wife keeps noting it to me. It has opened my eyes to the reality of the Father God blessing our family, specifically through this chubby, sweet-smiling three-month-old infant.
- Just in general… People keep encouraging me, especially about my motherhood and my children. I should keep notes and read on a day when I’m discouraged. 🙂
I’ve always kept with the notion that those who compare themselves among themselves are not wise. Therefore, I often take lightly the compliments of others, regarding my children. I see the best in my children, but I also see the worst, and I can’t help but often think, “If you only knew...” when someone says something flattering about one of my children.
But, I’ve decided this: It would be more repugnant to live in the blessing and not realize it. I think my perfectionist self rather disqualifies my motherhood, disqualifies my children, even, from receiving compliments and blessings. This makes me sad. I want to believe it! I should believe it! I want to embrace a life of blessing. I want to ENJOY being blessed! I think it would score one for the enemy if I really did live a blessed life, but didn’t have the revelation of it. What a waste that would be!
I’m feeling an increased longing for more of God’s presence in our home. In short, I’m longing for His blessing, His hand on our lives and in our hearts. I’ve always wanted this… but it seems like God is bringing me to a place of urgency in prayer and in seeking Him for this, and I have, a number of times in the last month or so, been brought to tears with HOW MUCH I LONG FOR this, long for Him.
So, that’s my new goal: To enjoy the Father’s blessing, which, indeed, includes my precious children, and to look for and acknowledge His blessing. I am a blessed woman, indeed, to have six children and a loving husband. Perfection is a long, long, long, long ways off. But I am still very blessed, and I want to have an increasing revelation of that, and live in its peace.
*For the curious, our family is not “quiverfull“.
** I was telling my pastor about how I was basking in this blessing from my uncle, and then, I looked over and saw my seven-year-old daughter, Audrey, CHEWING on the note. CHEWING IT. She explained, “I’m pretending to be a puppy!” My pastor said with a laugh, “And then reality set in!”
***There is an old worship song by John Barnett called “In the Blessing.” Its words are: “Here I stand/In the blessing of the Father’s love/Washed in blood/Sweet forgiveness for a life undone… Knowing that Your love is all I need/To get by/Knowing that Your hand is over me/All my life/My Father, I love you…” I couldn’t find a recording of this song — which has often brought me to tears — to add to this post.
My stepdad, Joe, passed away last Thursday.
It was a shock.
I visited him with Audrey and Fiala the night previous, as we’d gotten word that he had taken a turn for the worse. He was mostly out of it, on pain meds, but we had some now-memorable exchanges… One was me asking him if he wanted music in his room — he LOVED music — and he did. I made a mental plan to follow up on that the next day. A sick man should have music. He taught my children all sorts of silly songs over the years — he and my mom started dating when my 16 year-old was an infant; they were married days after he turned one — and I asked him if he might have a silly song for my girls. He replied, “Not at the moment.” When the girls and I were about to leave, I told him I needed to go back home to nurse baby Jean. “Do you remember baby Jean?” I asked, not sure how connected he was with what I was saying. “Oh, yes!” he said, and his face lit up. The girls and I prayed for him, I told him that I loved him, and he said he loved me, too, and we left.
We got back home, and I told my husband, “He looks bad, but he doesn’t look like he’s on death’s door.”
I was wrong.
He died early the next morning.
Perhaps this seems odd, but I think his passing might be a testament to how much he loved my mother, and that makes me feel a little bit better.
It had been a hard, hard year with Joe. Well, hard ten months. My mother passed on October 18, 2012, and for the month or so following, things were good with Joe, although he was terribly — understandably — heartbroken.
And then things deteriorated.
Much of the deterioration revolved around my mom’s will and the way estate law works in Arizona.
The short version is that he didn’t think that myself or my three siblings should inherit anything from my mother. He genuinely felt entitled to everything she owned and saved, and felt that we weren’t taking care of him by signing our inheritances over to him.
My sibs and I couldn’t agree to his desires. My mom appropriated some things to her children… The bulk of the estate went to Joe. There was much that estate law would allow us to keep, or claim — property which wasn’t exactly specified in the will — which we didn’t. We siblings were trying our best to err on the side of generosity, to keep all fighting to an absolute minimum, to find common ground… We simply were not successful, and Joe remained upset at us. Angry, really. He was angry with us.
It had been a very, very hard time, a difficult year.
I had long said that Joe was the most involved grandparent that my children had.
And, it was true for 15 years.
And then, not true for 10 months.
There were a few, encouraging steps forward… and those would invariably be followed by some giant sliding backward.
I’m not angry at Joe. The issue of inheritance was a very difficult thing that was only resolved about a month ago. But, even when estate matters were resolved, things were still not good, relationship-wise, with Joe. While he was in the hospital, my brother-in-law suggested to Joe, “Can we call a truce? And then, when you’re feeling better, you can be angry again.” Joe thought that was hilarious — my brother-in-law is quite witty, and I think it was the perfect thing to say. And, Joe agreed, at least in spirit…
While my family was on vacation earlier this month, Joe — who had for months been complaining of an ‘upset stomach’ — was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And, less than two weeks after his diagnosis, he was gone.
I wrote to some friends:
Everyone handles grief so differently. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking, “He just could NOT move on,” and that fits with something else I was going to say: he has always tended towards bitterness and suspicion and hoarding… and we didn’t realize how much my mom kept that in check. In so many ways, she must have compelled him to move on, to get past “it”, whatever “it” was. And with her gone, there was no one who could speak that into him, and he just spiraled out of control. I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but it seems like a testament to how much he loved my mom, how much influence she had in his life, what a difference she made in his outlook and approach to life… it makes me feel better. And even with his cancer diagnosis. I think he just might have given up. I think if she had been alive, he would have fought.
When my mom was hospitalized, my siblings and I frequently discussed how much my mom loved Joe, but how foreign to us were his ways of expressing love to her. I found myself rather desperately hoping that my mom was loved as deeply as she… well, I hate the word “deserve”… Needed? Should have had? I’m not sure of the right word there. I just wanted her to be loved by her husband. That was really, really, really important to me. And there were times when I found myself wondering.
Yet, this last week, I have been, indeed, struck with just how much he much have loved her… She made his life worth living. She compelled him to go on. She called out in him the things that were noble, and helped the ignoble to be manageable, far less noticeable.
I’m a mishmash of thoughts and emotions.
Such regret that relationship wasn’t restored by the time of Joe’s passing.
So sad… Sad for my children. Sad for Joe. Sad for myself.
But, strangely comforted about my mother, whose absence is a deepening hole in my life.
I’m comforted that he loved her.
My friend Stephanie was at the birth of Jean Marjorie Joy, born on June 25. She had her camera, and I knew she took a few pics. But I didn’t know just how many until today, Jean’s six-week “birth day.” Right after the birth, Steph went on vacation and was then busy with a number of other things. She gave me a flash drive with her pics on it, a week and a half ago. I don’t know why it took me so long to view the pictures… Mixed emotions, I guess. However, when I did, I cried good tears… Collectively, they tell a tale of love, and of a day that shouldn’t be forgotten. There are a whole bunch of pictures immediately post-birth, for a space of about sixteen minutes that I somehow forgot: I just somehow absolutely didn’t recall those minutes, at all. But, seeing the pictures, it all came back to me, even how it felt, to have baby Jean up on my swollen belly, only a minute post-birth. “Oh… yes… I do remember that! I remember it now!” (You can read the original birth story, here.)