Category Archives: Summer Plans

Gardens, homeschooling, running, Paleo failure, mothering failure (?)

  1.  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.

    So, this photo has a copyright on it.  I'm aware of that.  I *DID* purchase a photo from the photographer, but it won't be delivered for 2-3 weeks, at which time I'll update this with the "real" photo with no watermark.

    So, this photo has a copyright on it. I’m aware of that. I *DID* purchase a photo from the photographer, but it won’t be delivered for 2-3 weeks, at which time I’ll update this with the “real” photo with no watermark.

  2.   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.
    Grant promoted to the rank of Chief in Civil Air Patrol Cadets on Monday.

    Grant promoted to the rank of Chief in Civil Air Patrol Cadets on Monday.

     

  3. 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.
  4. 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.

    Beets are beautiful.

    Beets are beautiful.

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.

I traveled to Portland…

My friend Kathy told me I need to write more.  So, I comply.

Though I struggle with feeling irrelevant in this age of blogs that are perfectly photographed, engagingly-written by self-assured experts in every imaginable topic, she tells me that I do have a niche, and I fill a role…  I’m still not 100% certain what that role is, nine and a half years after I started blogging.

I’m also going to — at Kathy’s urging — start to journal more on the things about which I cannot write publicly.  I find that, as my children grow toward adulthood, I can’t really disclose to the faceless masses — or even friends I know and trust in real life — many of the things that truly weigh down my heart, as they are often not my secrets to divulge.

Then, when all of these thoughts and feelings and words are teeming in my mind, considered but unwritten, everything else seems like fluff — truly irrelevant and not worth the time invested in writing a blog post.

This, however:  Worthwhile.  To me, at least.

I did something this past weekend that I’ve never done before:  gone on a girlfriends’ weekend with no kids and no husband.  Well, I haven’t done anything like that since I’ve been married.  For Mother’s Day, my husband surprised me with a trip to the Portland area, to see some dear friends.  I had been semi-planning this trip for, oh, about a year…  But, with my oldest son’s high school graduation, my second son going to Civil Air Patrol Encampment in June, a house that sucks up our remodeling budget and most of our discretionary income, a family camping trip to plan, and more — always more — I was certain that it wouldn’t work out.  Unbeknownst to me, my husband had been scheming with my friends.  He’s a good man.

So, while my headcold-ridden husband stayed home with our six children, I flew to PDX, and went criss-crossing southern Washington and northern Oregon with three friends for four days.  Mountains!  The beach!  Gardens!  Farmer’s market!  City!  Country!  We packed a great deal into a short period of time.

One friend, Dee Dee, traveled up from the desert — though not the same flight as me — and we met our two friends who used to live here, but who now live in the Portland area.

This time is a treasure to me.  I have no great love for the Phoenix area… Yet, as my husband says, it is the land of our anointing.  It’s where God has us, and where He has blessed us.  We have not plans — not any hopes, even — of ever living elsewhere.  There are far too many attachments here in the desert:  our beloved church, my husband’s job of 24 years, nearby family (though no one remaining who actually lives in the Phoenix area)….  So, it’s a hard balance, something I’ve struggled with — with varying degrees of success:  I long for green, for water in creeks, for rain, for tolerable weather…  Yet, I cannot give in to discontentment.  It wants to eat my heart, and I can’t let it.  I won’t.

So, any trip outside the desert is a delight, and this one was particularly so.

In my absence, my husband bought me a second-hand rototiller, so all things considered, it might have been the Best Weekend Ever.

at Salmon Creek

At Salmon Creek — on a little hike shortly after my arrival.  The only imperfection was that I forgot my binoculars at home, and there were many birds calling out to me, reminding me of my poor eyesight and forgetfulness.

IMG_20150627_165611

Mt. St. Helens — beautifully stark, profound in its impact, awesome in the recovery of the land.

We four:  Dee Dee, me, Allison, Kathy.

We four: Dee Dee, me, Allison, Kathy.

IMG_20150628_115445

At Oregon Garden in Silverton. I was quite amazed that, in its original state, Oregon had many hardwood timber forests. This particular oak was over 400 years old. The whole garden is very worthwhile, with both sculpted vistas, extensive veggie gardens, and acres of more wild, native greenery.

Upper Ape Cave.  This was 1 1/4 mile of quad-chewing, uphill scrambling, buried inside a lava tube.  Otherwordly and a priceless experience.  This particular view is of a natural skylight, about 80% of the way through the cave.

Upper Ape Cave. This was 1 1/4 mile of quad-chewing, uphill scrambling, buried inside a lightless lava tube. Otherwordly and a priceless experience. This particular view is of a natural skylight, about 80% of the way through the otherwise COMPLETELY DARK cave.

Allison and me at the Haystack, Cannon Beach, Oregon.  What a gorgeous beach -- with wide, flat, finely-sanded expanses, punctuated by massive boulders and fascinating tide pools.  I *think* I saw a puffin.  I also realized that this sweater I dearly love makes me look pregnant.  Love/not-love.

Allison and me at the Haystack, Cannon Beach, Oregon. What a gorgeous beach — with wide, flat, finely-sanded expanses, punctuated by massive boulders and fascinating tide pools. I *think* I saw a puffin. I’m holding sand dollars.  I also realized that this sweater which I previously really liked makes me look pregnant. Love/not-love.

My other favorite times:

  • Hanging out in Allison’s home, with her hubby and their two sons.  The living room is on the second level, and it is like being in a tree house, with massive windows on two walls, tall trees surrounding the property.  We curled up, kicked back, scritched the ears of her two Westies, and chatted for hours.
  • Eating.  Every restaurant in the Pacific Northwest has a gluten-free menu, and even the gelato at the grocery store (Chuck’s, I think it was called) was labeled as g.f.  We also ate at an Iraqi restaurant, which I wish I could transplant here.
  • Kathy made a delicious dinner for all of us, which we ate in her back yard.  As we waited for the meal, we had hors d’oeuvres of fresh blueberries, plucked from the bushes in Kathy’s yard.  Blueberry bushes.  In her back yard.
  • Just the friendship of other women who know and love each other and have similar values…  I feel rich in the blessings of friendship.  And we laughed a lot.  And exclaimed over the same things.  We’re all alike enough to enjoy most of the same things, but different enough that conversation is enlightening and lively, and we learn from each other.
  • On Sunday morning, as we drove to the Oregon Garden, Allison — the driver — made an executive decision that we would worship and pray aloud.  We did, for about an hour — praying for each other, our families, our churches — three represented by the four of us…  And we listened to the Housefires.  Time flew.  And then right at the end, as we were drenched in the Spirit, someone up the way started backing a 60-foot Winnebago into a driveway, and a lady strode purposefully onto the two-lane blacktop highway and held up her 5″ palm, telling us to stop.  This struck all of us as hilarious, because, really… we couldn’t see the Winnebago, and we would have been lost without her direction.  We were so grateful.  (Much laughter.)

I must return.  We’re already making plans, the four of us, to do so.

A crazy-busy season has passed, and a regular-busy season is here!

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.

  • obscuredMy 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 the second face from the right.

    Grant is the second face from the right.

    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.

  • Wes and Jeanie

    Wes and Jeanie

    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.

  • Artsy, funky, fun, LOUD Audrey

    Artsy, funky, fun, LOUD Audrey

    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.

  • Fiala, me, Jean

    Fiala, me, Jean

    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.0618151352Of 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.

Making yogurt, making a garden, and raising a son into the workplace

  • Eurocuisine YM80 — I also purchased an expansion tray and a set of eight more glass jars, but Amazon sent TWO expansion trays and no extra glass jars. Humph.

    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.
  • IMG_20140516_110157_393 - Copy

    I know. It doesn’t look all that exciting. And you can’t really tell the scope of the project from this pic. But I have gotten to know this little cart and a pair of shovels very well in the last week.

    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:
    Baby Jean giving a hug and a sloppy kiss to Fiala.  I absolutely love the fact that baby Jean grabs both sides of someone's face and smashes her chubby, drooly mouth onto the kiss-recipient.

    Baby Jean giving a hug and a sloppy kiss to Fiala. I absolutely love the fact that baby Jean grabs both sides of someone’s face and smashes her chubby, drooly mouth onto the kiss-recipient.

    This is me, in an absolutely horrid shirt of my husband's (he's never worn it;  it was a gift).  It has long sleeves to protect my sunburn from a couple of days ago when I thought, "Oh, I won't be working THAT long," and worked for two hours with no sunblock.  Anyway, this is how you get yardwork done with a baby:  Work as much as you can while she naps.  Then, have your kids take 30 minute play/watch sessions, punctuated by 15 minute sessions of baby with Mama.  It works.  :)

    This is me, in an absolutely horrid shirt of my husband’s (he’s never worn it; it was a gift). It has long sleeves to protect my sunburn from a couple of days ago when I thought, “Oh, I won’t be working THAT long,” and worked for two hours with no sunblock. Anyway, this is how you get yardwork done with a baby: Work as much as you can while she naps. Then, have your kids take 30 minute play/watch sessions, punctuated by 15 minute sessions of baby with Mama. It works. 🙂

Corn seconds (or… “So Come”)

This morning, my five children and I sat around our island and shucked sweet corn.

My oldest, Ethan (who will be 16 on Sunday), expressed a new appreciation for pesticides.

I was a bit shocked, as was Grant, who is 13.

It was, however, somewhat understandable.

The corn we were shucking was from the CSA, from Crooked Sky Farms.  Organic, fresh, but quite wormy.

Wednesday is CSA Day, where (currently) 24 people come to my home and pick up their share of local, organic, single-farmer-grown produce.  However, on Wednesday, I thought that I was going to have a baby, and I called in the troops — a fellow CSA member who had volunteered to host the pick-up, should I be giving birth or something like that, especially since we’re planning a homebirth.

In retrospect, I feel like a chump for calling her, because here it is, two days later, and I still don’t have a baby.

Anyway.

The instructions from the farm said to give everyone three ears of corn.  She was about halfway through the afternoon when she realized, “We are going to have a LOT of corn left.  A LOT.”  She upped the remaining people’s share to four ears, but was also worried, like perhaps the farm unintentionally gave too much corn, and they were going to ask for it back.

So, she came to my home yesterday with all the leftovers, including four boxes of corn — each box holding 25-40 ears of corn.  Clearly, each member could have had SIX ears, and we still wouldn’t have run out.  I’m not sure what happened — if they delivered too much accidentally, or if they just gave extra so that folks could pick through the ears and get the best ones, or what.

In any case, she kept two boxes, as did I.  I assured her that she had done nothing wrong;  sometimes, you just have to go with the flow and adjust, and she just didn’t know that, as this was her first time.  And, one of the perks of being the host is that you get to decide what to do with the leftovers, and one of the decisions you are free to make is, “Why, I’ll just keep it!”

The substitute host has seven kids;  I have five (almost six).  We happily kept our corn.

HOWEVER…  I must say, this corn was definitely picked-through, and not nearly as pretty as what you’d see in the grocery store.  Most of the ears were, as I mentioned, wormy.  (However, cut off the top third or half, and voila!  You have a beautiful half-ear of corn.)  Some of it was way too mature — dented kernels throughout, telling me that it was over-ripe, and that the sugars had turned to starch, and that it wouldn’t be good eating.  Some of the ears were just too worm-eaten or even moldy, and the whole ear had to be chucked into the compost bin.

So…  It wasn’t exactly pretty work, shucking this corn.  There was a lot of, “Eeeewww…” and ears dropped like a hot potato when pulling back the husk revealed three caterpillars, happily munching away at the kernels.

Wesley (age 11) eventually got grossed out and became mostly the guy who carted all the shucks, silk, and “dead” ears off to the compost bin.

Audrey (age 7) became distraught that I wouldn’t allow her to make a habitat which would enable her to keep all the caterpillars.  Indeed, I was insisting that everyone simply throw away the caterpillars in with the shucks.  She was horrified by my casual discarding of life.

However, Ethan, Grant, and 4-year-old Fiala hung in there like champs to the very end.

I wish I had a “before” picture to show you just how ugly this corn was…  But, I didn’t take a pic.

I found myself, though, reflecting on the treasure we uncovered, in pale yellow and white kernels — one that required a little work.  One that required us to “extract the precious from the worthless.”

Jeremiah 15:19

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

19 Therefore, thus says the Lord,
“If you return, then I will restore you—
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become [a]My spokesman.

We have enough “pretty” whole or mostly-whole ears of corn to give us two — maybe even three — nights of sweet corn feasting with our dinners.  And that is for our aforementioned large family of seven.

I also took the not-so-pretty ears — those which were less-than-half-sized, those which needed multiple kernels trimmed out, or even whole sides cut off, due to being dried or worm-eaten, etc. — and cut the remaining good kernels.  Those efforts resulted in a couple of knife nicks on my left hand, a partially numb right index finger from grasping the knife for six passes per ear… AND, five quarts of kernels to add to our freezer.

I feel like that’s a win.

Corn!

It’s hard to tell from this pic, but there are probably 25-30 ears of corn in the plastic shopping bag — most of them only partial ears…. But it’s a lot of corn!

This song was running through my head this afternoon, as I extracted the precious sweet corn kernels from what previously appeared to be two boxes of worthless, picked-over, dried, wormy, partly moldy corn…

I don’t know how to explain it…  It just feels redemptive and rewarding to have rescued all that corn… to have worked for it, toughed it out when the going was gross, and now my freezer is stocked and we will feast on hot, buttered, salty corn-on-the-cob tonight.

In which I complain — and other stuff

I am 31 weeks pregnant.  I had two and a half glorious months, post-morning-sickness, where I felt AMAZING.  Now, my large belly has caught up with me, and I am feeling rather crabby and swollen and it’s hard to breathe, and I generally feel uncomfortable.  I’m also getting exhausted in a way… well, prior to my diagnosis with Celiac Disease, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome*.  I remember how it felt in the evening, anticipating even ONE outing the following day, and having to fight despondency, because I knew that ONE outing would wipe me out, entirely.  That is where I’m at, now.

Until the last few weeks, the worst I could say was that the mass of varicose veins on the back of my right leg was giving me pain.  All things considered, being a 39-year-old pregnant woman, I figured that was quite good.  I got my stinkin’ expensive “pregnancy support garment” — which is very much like a girdle, or a compression garment.  On one hand, it’s a blessing:  It allows me to walk around without feeling like my leg is going to fall off;  it minimizes the pain and pressure, as well, from vaginal varicosities.  However… it is 80% nylon and 20% spandex which, apparently, my skin doesn’t appreciate.  If I wear it for too long, I get hives.  But if I’m NOT wearing it, I can literally be on my feet for maybe 5-10 minutes at a time.

I went to Illinois this past weekend.  I went to my maternal grandmother’s memorial service and visited my paternal grandmother, who is very ill.  I traveled with my sister (who lives in the Phoenix area, as well) and my brother (who drove down from Utah to travel with us).  It was, all things considered, a wonderful trip, in spite of the sad catalyst for the journey.  I could write for a very long time on my thoughts and the events of the four days, but I likely can’t:  My experience is so intertwined with others’, for whom I deeply care.  Telling my tale would necessitate telling theirs, as well, and I don’t know if they would appreciate me broadcasting their story;  it’s not mine to tell.

Still, in spite of late nights, days spent going hither and thither on necessary business, spending my days in the endless company of others (which generally drains me, as an introvert) — whom I needed to see and wanted to see and LOVED to see, cramming a couple of weeks of events into those four days, in spite of unending exhaustion of both body and mind, an aching leg, and the aforementioned hives, it was an exceptionally worthwhile journey.

IMG_20130420_100838_168

Views like this refresh my soul. It does, doubly so, knowing that this land, this view, has been connected to my mother’s family for nearly 200 years.

I love Illinois.  The above picture was taken from the back steps of my aunt’s home.  I took it, steaming coffee in hand.  The sun was shining, it was about 7 a.m., and the temperature was 35°.  The view is a corner of a field, which will likely have corn growing in it within a month or so, and a little pond beyond that.  In the timber behind the pond is the remain of an old road, likely last used in the early 1800s.  It had rained torrentially in Illinois, the day before our arrival, so the ground was saturated and impassably muddy in many places, and I didn’t own the boots which would allow me to go down that lovely road-path.

My husband, though, is considering having our family return to Illinois for our family’s summer trip this year — which would be our first time as a whole family — and I will most certainly meander down that road…

Anyway.

It shouldn’t be odd that, with the absence of The Mom, there are many things, upon my return, that have needed my attention.  Life does go on, even when I’m not here at home.  Laundry continues to pile up.  Children still need attention in their schooling.  The dog’s medicine runs out.

Today was much busier than I would have preferred, even if I weren’t pregnant.  So far, I have:

  • Gone to a grocery store — needed especially for milk and meat for the week.  (In related news, I got three gallons of organic milk for $4.99.  This was accomplished due to the fact that Shamrock Farms organic milk was 50% off this week, with the final price of $2.49 for a 3-quart container.  Two containers were near their “best by” date, and were marked $2.50 off.  In other words, FREE.  I figured that even if they went bad before we finished drinking them, no harm done;  they’re free.  I got two other containers, as well.  Four containers, three gallons total, $4.99 spent.)
  • Done two large loads of laundry — it’s still not folded, yet.
  • Overseen school with my three older children.  I will admit my first grader, Audrey, did pretty much nothing today, other than some self-directed art and Lego-building.
  • I fertilized my mini-garden with fish emulsion and epsom salts — something that should be done every two weeks, but of which I was very overdue.
  • I called LG for my washing machine — again.  It keeps having issues.  I’ve needed to call them for a couple of weeks now, but kept putting it off.
  • I ordered Algebra 2 on Teaching Textbooks.
  • I had an overdue, hour-long conversation with another homeschooling mom, helping her (I hope) with some issues she’s having with one of her children.
  • I went to Trader Joe’s for more groceries.
  • I returned some overdue library DVDs.  Yes, even with a smart phone, I kept forgetting to renew our family’s DVDs while I was away, resulting in $7 in new fines.  😦
  • I went to the pool supply store and got chlorine tabs and shock.  Our poor pool…  It really needs a new pump.  It is under warranty until July, but a repairman has already been out once, and he said that there’s really nothing he can do, under our warranty, until the pump breaks.  If it breaks entirely before July, the $400+ cost of replacement will be covered.  If it only limps along inefficiently, as it has been doing, we’re out of luck.  I must admit that I am tempted to sabotage the pump to “help” it completely break.  My husband, though, man of absolute integrity that he is, wouldn’t hear of such a thing.  But, it’s in the 90s now, and our pool-cum-pond is unusable.
  • I went to pick up more fluconazole for our dog, Tally, who is still recovering from Valley Fever.
  • I stopped by a used furniture store and bought a small chest of drawers for the new baby ($25 — it needs to be either painted or lightly sanded and revarnished — I haven’t decided which, yet).  I also bought a very solid, medium-sized bookcase for $35.  It has a blond finish, and appears to be from the 60s.  It is almost cool.  Tomorrow, I will clear out the beleaguered particle board book case which is currently holding most of our school books for this year.  It keeps collapsing.
  • I still need to shower.
  • I need to make dinner — which will be the Crockpot refried beans I made last night, reheating a roasted Costco rotisserie chicken, and likely some roasted beets from the CSA I host each Wednesday.  Easy peasy.
  • I need to pick out the worship set list for tonight’s small group.  It is definitely one of those nights where, if I didn’t have to go to small group, I probably wouldn’t.  Frankly, I’d rather put up my feet, watch baseball, and read my current book** during the commercials.  When I’m actually there at group, I always enjoy it.  Always.  But, right now, I am tired, and wish I wasn’t compelled to attend by my responsibilities there…

So, that’s it!  That has been my day.  Too busy for me.  Still not over.  But, life could be worse, eh?  All things considered, life is still good — many things have happened in the last week that are stellar, and on which I cannot comment.

If you’re still reading, thank you.  🙂  Since it has been nearly three weeks since I posted, I felt that this post was overdue, as well…  Not my best work, but it will have to do for now.

Blessings to all my readers, those whom I know personally, and those whose acquaintance I’ve only made through this blog…  I’ve been feeling particularly thankful for you, lately.

 

—————–

*Virtually all CFS symptoms disappeared when I went onto a gluten-free diet.  I do believe that the underlying cause of my chronic fatigue was celiac disease itself.

**In spite of middling reviews (which I have not read — only noticing it has only about 3.5 stars on Amazon), I am still very much enjoying it.  Well, I just peeked at some reviews.  It appears that those who love Anne Perry’s mysteries, set in 1800s England, are most disappointed.  Perhaps that explains why I like the book:  I don’t care for Anne Perry.  (I did read her four-book series which was set in WWI, but once the series was completed, decided that any more of Perry would be a waste of my time.)

 

JUST GROW IT!!! Big Seed Giveaway from Botanical Interests

bg-plants-a

SEED GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED TO ENTRIES!!!!

I have deleted all the non-entry comments so as to get a more accurate count of the entries…  Just a note:  I tried to contact most folks who put all their entries in one comment to ask them to return and create multiple comments — one comment for each entry, as per the rules.  If I wasn’t able to contact you, I’m sorry!!  All winners chosen through a random number generator (from http://www.random.org).  Oldest entry is #1, newest is #323.  First selected gets first choice.  I will post both on my Facebook page and on here as I select winners.

  1. The first winner is comment #64, Melissa K!! The entry that won it was for her subscribing to the Botanical Interests newsletter. She wanted the Can You Dig It? Children’s Gardening Kit for she and her children to use in their new home! (The kit was by far the #1 choice of winners!)
  2. The second winner is comment #173, Vickie!  She said that she would like the Can You Dig It? kit as well, which was the choice of the first winner… So I have sent an e-mail out to Vickie asking her what her second choice would be.
  3. The third winner is comment #165, Cindy in GA.  She also wanted the children’s kit.  After Vickie (winner #2) chooses, Cindy will get her choice of the remaining prizes.
  4. The fourth winner is comment #303, Alex.  Alex will get whichever prize remains after Vickie and Cindy have chosen!

I WANT YOU TO GROW THINGS.

I want you to try your hand at gardening, even if gardening means putting a few seeds into a windowsill pot and hoping they sprout.

I have found that most people, when they find I love gardening, say something like, “I’ve always wanted to do that…”  Or, “My mother had such an amazing garden.  I wish I could…”

There are so many rewards to gardening!!  I dearly want to help you overcome the typical reasons I’ve encountered for not gardening, like…

  • Not enough space.
  • Intimidated by lack of experience.
  • “I don’t have anyone to teach me!”
  • “I know a lot of people who have tried to garden and failed.”
  • Not enough time.
  • Not enough money to invest into a garden.
  • It just seems like a huge hassle…

Honestly, I’ve had to battle my own gardening challenges and disappointments.  The home into which we moved, July 2012, has ample space for a really big garden, but we decided to prioritize remodeling the indoors before we tackle the yard.  We live on nearly half an acre, but as I recently blogged, it takes a LOT of work to prepare the soil to grow things, here in the Phoenix area.  You can’t just scatter seed and expect it to do something.

So, for the time being, I’ve resorted to container gardening.  I have some raised boxes that are currently growing some veggies and herbs, and some containers that are waiting for my indoor starts to be ready to transplant.  This almost doesn’t feel like “real” gardening to me, when my previous garden looked like this:

Garden on 69th Lane

My old garden…. I miss it…

But…  I am often encouraging friends to just grow SOMETHING.  Just try.

I want to equip you to try your hand at growing something.

I was recently thinking about how much I love Botanical Interests.  They’re a seed company whose home is just outside of Denver, Colorado.

  • They’re family-owned.
  • All of their seeds are non-GMO.
  • Many of their seeds are organic.
  • Many of their seeds are heirloom (Meaning you can collect, save, and re-plant the seeds from the veggies you grew from the originally-purchased seeds.  With hybrids, this is not possible.  Being the cheapskate that I am, I save as many seeds as I can, though I have much to learn about seed-saving!!)
  • I love that I can find Botanical Interests’ seeds locally.
  • They have fabulous customer service.
  • The art on their seed packets is gorgeous.
  • The information on their seed packets is second-to-none:  It is detailed, helpful, and educational.
  • I love that their seeds are reasonably priced, even the organic ones.

Having a wee bit of a brainstorm after not winning this giveaway, I thought that perhaps Botanical Interests would sponsor a seed giveaway on MY blog.  Happily, they quickly agreed!  In fact, they agreed to a BIG seed giveaway!!

There are FOUR separate prizes which will go to four winners and TEN ways you can enter.  Yes, you can enter ten separate times.  But, you can only win one prize.

First, the prizes (click on the titles for more information from Botanical Interests):

  1. Can You Dig It?  Children’s Gardening Kit.  This retails for $29.99 and is a package that includes a colorfully illustrated instruction book, garden supply list, planting map, horticultural glossary, a reusable harvesting bag and garden markers.  The seed packets included in this collection are:  Carrot Baby Little Finger, Tomato Cherry Gardener’s Delight, Lettuce Butterhead Tom Thumb, Bean Bush Blue Lake 274, Radish Cherry Belle, and Marigold Dwarf Lemon Drop.  This would be perfect for a homeschooling project, a weekend family project, or as a project to do with your preschoolers!  You and your children can learn together!!

    Can You Dig It? Kit

    Can You Dig It? Kit

  2. Water-Wise Flower Mix Two large packets of seeds, enough to cover a total of about 500 square feet with water-wise color, both annuals and perennials.  It contains a mix of 20 different flowers like Arroyo Lupine, Sulphur Cosmos, Orange California Poppy, Moss Verbena, and Pink Evening Primrose.  Retail value:  $9.98.

    Water-Wise Mix

    Water-Wise Mix

  3. Container Vegetable Seed Collection This collection retails for $15.00 and contains eight packets of seed, all selected to grow well in containers or other small spaces.  Included are:  Carrot Tonda di Parigi, Cucumber Spacemaster, Kale Dwarf Blue Curled, Lettuce Mesclun Farmer’s Market Blend, Onion Bunching/Scallion Tokyo Long White, Pepper Sweet Cherry Blend, Spinach Lavewa, and Tomato Bush Better Bush.

    Container Vegetable Collection (and yes, it comes in the cute, beribboned box)

    Container Vegetable Collection (and yes, it comes in the cute, beribboned box)

  4. Karen’s Selection for February-March planting in the Phoenix area.  With a (small bit of) knowledge of what is likely to grow well in the Sonoran Desert, and using the reliable, indispensable University of Arizona Vegetable Planting Calendar for Maricopa County, I have personally selected a eleven varieties that are perfect for late-February and/or March planting.  Of course, you don’t have to be in the desert to plant these gems, but the seeds, some good compost, some water, and the spring Arizona sunshine should net you some great veggies in a couple of months, right about the time that most people in cooler climates are starting to plant!  Nine of the the eleven varieties can be direct-seeded:  You plant them directly into the soil of your garden;  no need for starting them indoors.  Included in this package are:  Organic Greek Yevani Basil, Heirloom Pencil Pod Yellow bush beans, Organic Heirloom Gourmet Blend beets, Heirloom White Stem bok choy, Spacemaster cucumbers, Organic Heirloom Hearts of Gold cantaloupe, Heirloom Tokyo Long White green onions (scallions), Organic Heirloom Early Jalapeno peppers, Organic Heirloom Cherry Belle radish, Heirloom Tatuma Calabacita summer squash, and Organic Heirloom Italian Roma tomatoes.  (Approximate retail value $23.00.)

    Tatuma Calabacita -- this WILL become your new favorite summer squash.

    Tatuma Calabacita — this WILL become your new favorite summer squash.

Now… here are the TEN DIFFERENT WAYS YOU CAN ENTER!  Please leave ONE comment for each entry.  Yes, that means you may end up leaving a whole bunch of comments.  That’s OK.  There is no maximum number of times to enter;  I would be tickled if you did every single thing on the list.  Also, if the entry requires you to take some action, do it BEFORE you comment.  In each comment, tell me what you did.

  1. Post a comment below telling me which prize you’d most like to win, and why.
  2. Like Only Sometimes Clever on Facebook.
  3. Like Botanical Interests on Facebook.
  4. Post a link to this contest on your personal Facebook profile.  (Shortlink:  http://wp.me/p1wkS-Z2)
  5. Post a link to this contest on your Facebook page — other than your personal profile (for instance, if you own a company, or have a blog, or moderate a group that has its own Facebook page).
  6. Post a link to this contest on Pinterest.
  7. Write a little blurb and include a link on your personal blog.
  8. Send out a Tweet promoting this contest with a link.
  9. Download a PDF catalog or request a print catalog from Botanical Interests.
  10. Subscribe to Botanical Interests’ eNewsletter.  (Enter your e-mail address in the box on the right-hand side of Botanical Interests’ home page.)

Contest ends at midnight, Mountain Standard Time, on Wednesday, February 13, 2013.
Four winners will be selected at random on Thursday, February 14.  I will contact the winners by e-mail, so make sure you include a valid e-mail in your comment registration.  First selected will have first choice, second will have second, and so on.
If winners do not respond within three days, I will select a new winner (or winners) at my discretion.  All prizes will be awarded.
Giveaway open to legal United States residents aged 18 and over.
Odds of winning depend on how many entries are received.
Winners agree to have their first names and locations published here on Only Sometimes Clever.
This contest is being sponsored by Botanical Interests, and the prizes provided by their generosity.  However, I am not being compensated for this in any way!!  It really is because I want you to GROW SOMETHING!!!

Sponsored by Botanical Interests, Inc.  660 Compton St., Broomfield, Colorado, 80020

Dear friends.

I wish I could clearly express how precious this part of our vacation was.

I have had a hard time writing this, because it’s so deep, so close to my heart.  Because of its significance to me, I didn’t want it to sound mundane:  “We had a great meet-up with some friends.  Here are some documenting pics that aren’t nearly as great as I wish they were.”

There simply aren’t adequate words for the knitting of hearts.

It makes me tear up, even now, thinking about it.

I’ve been Daja’s bloggy-friend for… I think five years.  I feel like she is a long-lost sister;  we have so much in common and feel and act so similarly on a huge range of topics*.  We have communicated much — at first, just commenting on each other’s blogs… Then, I enlisted her help with a writing project.  We have chatted on the phone a few times, mostly in our efforts to get our families together, one way or another, and it never worked.

This most recent trip to California, it finally did.

I knew I would squeal and rush to hug her when I saw Daja, and I did just that.

I knew our children would love each other and play merrily together, and they did.

I wasn’t 100% sure about our husbands getting along, but I thought they likely would, and I hoped.  And they did.  In fact, post-trip, there was a loose end we were tying, and at one point, my husband asked me multiple times, “Have you followed up with Daja yet?”  At the same time, Gana was asking Daja, “Have you called Karen yet?”  😀

During our week-long trip, our families spent time together twice:  Sunday afternoon, the 2nd of September, Daja traveled with her seven children to the cottage in which our family was staying.  Thankfully, it was on 1/2 of a wooded acre, and it really didn’t seem crowded or over-loud with twelve children romping.

The second occasion, we drove up to her home for an afternoon and dinner the following Friday.

During that trip, Daja and I needed to make a run to the grocery store, and we took my family’s vehicle.  I noticed that the truck was running VERY rough.  I theorized, upon my return, that it wasn’t firing on all cylinders.  Martin and Gana left, right before dinner-time, to try to get the truck fixed.  It did turn out to be a spark plug that needed to be replaced, but on a Friday evening, fixing that simple problem turned into a three-hour ordeal.  I think it worked out for the best, because Gana and Martin very much enjoyed their time and conversation together, and the dinner that occurred in their absence was THE VERY LOUDEST meal in which I’ve ever participated.  It was joyful — with twelve children hollering to be heard, showing their best funny faces, exchanging jokes, asking for seconds and thirds….  I grinned the whole time;  it was so fun.  But, I think my husband would have popped an eardrum and stressed out at the unceasing, ever-escalating noise level.

During all our time together, I can’t remember even one sad face or squabble.  Well, not any serious ones;  every minor squabble was quickly resolved…  Such love and joy and goodwill flowed from everyone to everyone.  It was absolutely ideal.

I cannot wait until we are blessed to spend time with this family again.

Martin and his buddy, baby River

It’s really hard to get a good picture of 15 people (and a dog), all at once, especially when one’s husband is clowning around, wearing one’s own sunglasses. FUN pictures are just as well as lovely pictures with everyone smiling, though!

I’m actually a little angry that my camera keeps not-quite-focusing at all the wrong moments. If this wasn’t a weensy bit fuzzy, I would frame it.

Both Daja and I love to cook, and I rather envisioned us, bumping hips in the kitchen, prepping food for our families for dinner, and that’s very much how it happened.

It was difficult to get a shot of JUST the parents, as children kept darting into the frame, wanting to be included. It was a happy problem.

I know this picture is fuzzy and isn’t well-composed.  We got too few pics of our children playing together, as, well, all kids were busy playing, and all parents were busy chatting.

Back at the cottage. Another not-great shot of children playing together.

 

The lovely Meg.

On the way back to our cottage, fairly late on Friday night, our 6-year-old Audrey burst into tears, crying, “I don’t think we will ever see them again!”  And my husband Martin replied firmly, “Yes, we will.  We will.”  I looked over at him with startled eyes, cautioning him with my glance to not raise in vain the hopes of our daughter.  He just nodded and repeated, “We will.”

—————

*Even on unimportant things.  For instance, we were at the grocery store together, and decided to get a bottle of wine.  “Reisling is my favorite white,” I said.  “What?  Me, too!  A good, dry reisling is my favorite,” Daja replied.  We got a bottle.  And a red for the guys.

First family photo in… I don’t know how long. Plus, really rad friends.

So, our family vacation was supposed to be “just” a stay in a little cottage in walking distance to the beach.  One can’t quite call it a “beach cottage”, because it’s not right on the water, but we did find the six-block walk quite reasonable, especially on the downhill side, on the way to the ocean.

In our fifteen years of being a family — that is, taking trips with children included — that in itself was going to be our most expensive trip ever.  We usually camp.  Or stay with family.  Or rent an el-cheapo U.S. Forest Service cabin (often without electricity or even running water!).  At most, we stay a night on the outbound side and a night on the inbound side in some inexpensive accommodation.  We have never ever taken a trip where our entire stay was in an actual building with a roof, creature comforts inside, for which we had paid.

Why?

Because we’re cheap.

We’d rather spend ten days camping for half the price of three days in a hotel.

Plus, I rather like camping.

However…  I knew this year was going to be different, because we planned a move for this summer.  Camping takes a LOT of work — both prep work, and work during the event — and a lot of equipment.  I knew that I wasn’t going to have the time or energy for a camping trip.

So, we decided to spring for the aforementioned cottage.  We decided that it would be quite dreamy to go for an entire week with nothing on the agenda but the pounding surf and some warm sunshine.

We had to move the timing of our summer vacation, as the bank picked a closing date smack-dab in the middle of our previously-scheduled trip.  We purchased a short sale, and there was no wiggle room for changing the closing date.  So, we had to change the timing of our vacation.

It worked out for the best, as most everyone else is done with their summer travel, the first week of September.  So, the beach was less crowded.

So was Disneyland, the Wednesday after Labor Day.

What??  Disneyland???  That wasn’t in the plans.  Too much money, by FAR.  None of our five children had ever been, for reasons similar to the reasons for camping:  You can get a lot more bang for your buck if you aren’t plunking down $80+ for each person just to step into some magical kingdom…

But, dear friends of ours — in the shocker of the decade — teamed up to purchase tickets for our entire family of seven, which they delivered to us the night before our departure.

They gave us clues, which NONE of us guessed;  it went entirely over my head that the little gifts they gave were part of a bigger package.

  1. A stick, with an attached tag that said, “In case you find a dog.”
  2. A bag of bread cubes, whose note read, “In case you want to feed a duck.”
  3. A package of motion sickness tabs with a tag, “In case you go on a wild ride.”
  4. A small first-aid pack, “In case you get blisters from lots of walking on your adventure.”
  5. A pair of mouse traps, “In case you find some mice.”

In retrospect, it seems rather obvious.  But at the time, I was torn between thinking, “How thoughtful of them to come up with such fun ideas!” and, “MOUSE TRAPS????  I know we’re cheap, but what kind of place do they think we’re staying in???”  And then I tried to edit my thoughts to rid that last sentence of its dangling participle.  Had I not been so wrapped up in that pointless exercise, I might have realized what was happening BEFORE the tickets came out…

DUH.

We decided to go on Wednesday, because we thought there would be less of a crowd, mid-week, directly after a major holiday.  That meant shorter hours in the park and no firework show, but we decided the trade-off would be worth it.

We were right.  We rocked the joint, arriving as the gates opened at 10 a.m., and happily staying until closing time at 8 p.m.  And, everyone still had a smile on their face and a spring in their step.

We thought we’d have to split up, with my husband Martin taking the three older boys, and me taking the two girls on the “baby” rides, as we thought our youngest, Fiala, would surely be too small for most of the main attractions.  NOPE.  She is 41″, and most of the rides require riders to be 40″.  So, she went on Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean…  All of them, except Matterhorn, for which she was too small.  She also wouldn’t have been able to go on Indiana Jones Adventure, but that was closed for refurbishment, so it was moot.

We went on virtually every ride in the park, from the Carousel and It’s a Small World to Autopia and Star Tours.  The longest line was at the submarine ride;  it was a 20 minute wait.  Everything else was 5-10 minutes, some even less!

And the boys — even our 15-year-old, Ethan — were such good sports, going on all the small rides — like Dumbo and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride — as well.  We didn’t have to split up at all.

Even the weather was perfect:  Mostly overcast, almost cool, with a smattering of sprinkles…

Our friends gave us cash to spend inside, too, and that covered:  parking, stroller rental, and lunch.  In the future, rather than dropping more than $100 on one stinkin’ meal (a good meal, but, still…), if we ever get to go again, I think we’ll take advantage of the picnic area just outside the gates.  I was rather morally outraged to spend nearly a week’s worth of groceries on one meal, and there’s no way we would have done it, had we not been gifted the money… and we knew the giver would actually want us to spend it, not hoard it.  🙂

Other than the cost of that meal, the occasion really was absolutely ideal.

All of us, plus Goofy (how apropos!). It has literally been more than a year since all seven of us were captured in one shot.

Audrey’s just a little bit happy.

So was Wesley.

My sense of propriety was a teensy bit challenged by my husband hopping ON TOP of the entire Sword in the Stone… Ha!

Rabbit ears in honor of the rabbit house.

Ethan on the top deck of the Mark Twain steamboat.

Audrey and Fiala even got to go on-stage and sing “Bear Necessities” during the Big Thunder Ranch Roundup with “Miss Chris”.  Fi doesn’t look too happy, but truly, they had such fun!

Grant with the Mad Hatter.

It’s a Small World was Fiala’s favorite ride because, “It’s so happy and pretty, and there is nothing scary!”

In Toontown.

On our way out, on Main Street, with the camera sitting on top of a trash bin. Everyone still happy at the end of the day, but sad to leave.  Most all with those evil red eyes, and I look slightly pregnant, but really, I’m not. 

I kept thinking that the whole thing was blessed by God;  in a way, the whole visit was “charmed.”  No wait, excellent weather, happy and kind attitudes from everyone, all day long, no one got hurt — not even a blister!  We just couldn’t have asked for anything better.

The only bad thing is that we have opened Pandora’s Box.  Well, not really.  But, prior to this, Fiala had never even heard of Disneyland.  Audrey had heard of it, from friends going, but didn’t know what it was.  When our dear friends came with the gifts, Fiala had a stranglehold on the bag of bread cubes, thinking that was the big gift, having no concept of this “Disneyland” of which everyone was chattering excitedly…  I had to sit her (and Audrey) down at the computer and show her pictures and little video clips and say, “THAT is where we’re going.”

That gave me a little window into how the Father must view us, in regards to Heaven:  We’re hanging on for dear life for the little gifts He’s given us, thinking that must be the pinnacle, with absolutely no grid, no revelation, of what the real gift — the real destination — might be….  I must say, I’ve never really longed for Heaven.  I tend not to dwell on things that are impossible for me to wrap my mind around.  But, just as this trip to Disneyland opened up the eyes of two little girls into the possibilities of wonder, fun, and amazement, it has put a little glimmer of hope, a little glimpse into what might await us as His beloved children.

And may you be blessed with friends who give thoughtfully, extravagantly, with rich kindness and blessing.

An observation about the beach

Sunset at Laguna Beach

At the beach, there are young men and women, mostly teens and those in their early 20s.

There is also a fairly broad representative of folks in their 50s and 60s.

There are hardly any in their 30s and 40s.  Virtually none.

I think when you’re young, you’re happy to gallivant with few clothes and a nice tan.

In your child-raising years, you start feeling self-conscious about your body’s imperfections:  Lumpier, whiter skin among the offenders.

But, by your 50s, you think, “Chuck it.  Who cares?” and you can go out in public in a swimming suit again.

 

 

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