Category Archives: The Dear Hubby
…actually write a blog post today.
But, I’ve decided to use my rare time on the actual desktop computer to look for plans for a chicken tractor, instead. (OK, I wrote a blog post.)
I will briefly update to say:
1. My oldest son, Ethan, is doing great at Arizona State. He is getting all As, and one of his professors loves his writing so much that he is keeping all of Ethan’s writing assignments to use as examples in current and future classes. While this is a particular win for Ethan (and for me, because — yay! I didn’t really suck as a teacher!), it’s a win for homeschooling, in general. Because what does this professor want? Analysis. Synthesis. Excellent grammar. Thoughtful, insightful writing. An understanding of the topic at hand. As a homeschooling mom, this is what I want, too! I’m not just looking for my children to regurgitate information; I want them to understand and to think. Apparently, professors enjoy having students who can do this.
2. My 16 year-old, Grant, is still mostly homeschooling in the traditional way. He is, however, taking two classes at a local two-day-a-week co-op. Honestly, he isn’t killin’ it like I thought he would; it’s a struggle for him. But, that’s a good thing to figure out NOW, as a junior, rather than in his freshman year of college. He still has the Air Force Academy as his goal, and is killin’ it in Civil Air Patrol Cadets, where he is a Staff Sergeant.
3. My son, Wesley, is a freshman at a small, conservative, tuition-free charter school. I have been extremely pleased with the school itself, and shocked, frankly, with how well Wesley has integrated into “the system”. There is one class in which he isn’t doing well — French II — and it’s mostly because of conflict with the teacher, who is pretty hard-nosed. But, I’m fine with that. I’ve told Wesley that, a) it’s an elective, and he’s still actually learning to speak French quite beautifully. And, b) for his whole life, he will encounter people who don’t “get” him, or are otherwise challenging, and learning to adapt and have healthy relationship is at least as important as learning particular subjects. So, overall: he’s doing very well.
4. Audrey is in 4th grade and Fiala is in 2nd. They are both doing excellently in school. Audrey is doing 6th grade math. Fiala can spell as well as a 4th grader. It was my aim for them to have FUN this year; to have a rich, full educational experience. That is happening. Because I couldn’t find a group in my area which was relaxed and social with no fees and no “statement of faith” to sign, I started a homeschool support group. We’re up to 95 families, which is crazy. Not everyone participates in every event, of course, but I organize a weekly park day, a weekly mom’s night grade-and-chat at a local coffee shop, and usually 1-3 additional events weekly. So, we’re busy, but it’s fun-busy. We’ve been to museums and on day trips and to art classes and more. This is exactly the sort of school year I envisioned for them, even if it means that we’re making really slow progress through the structured curriculum we’re doing (old Sonlight Core 2).
5. Jeanie is two years old and absolutely crazy. She is fun, chubby, happy, very active, doesn’t nap well, and has a thing for playing with her poop, which drives me absolutely batty. Yesterday, when I thought she was napping, she actually sculpted a faux hawk for herself with her poop. Yes, it was as gross as it sounds. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???!!??” I admit I yelled. Holy crap. Literally. It’s one of those things where my previous judgements have come back, in God’s humorous way, to bite me in the butt. Truthfully, when I had previously heard about other toddlers playing with their poop — since none of my kids had ever done that — that there must be something deeply wrong with the family, or with the child, emotionally. Or something. Playing with poop is clearly wrong and disturbed. Well, Jeanie is about the furthest a child could be from “disturbed”. But, she still plays with her poop.
6. Jeanie has been going to the home of a dear friend of mine for two hours, four days a week, and in exchange, I tutor my friend’s great-granddaughter for Kindergarten. She also goes to weekly park day with us, and on field trips. This is the first time I’ve taught a child other than my own. In the past, I’ve declined such requests, because they’re mostly along the lines of, “Hey, since you’re already home and teaching your own children, and public schools stink and private schools are too expensive, why don’t I bring my child over and you can teach her/him for free!” Which I decline. However, this particular plan is going quite well! I’m paid AND my friend keeps Jean, which really makes the whole thing possible. I had intended for Audrey and Fiala to be doing their seatwork (math, grammar/phonics, handwriting, and journal) while I work with our Kindergarten-friend. However, we’re doing Five in a Row (plus Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and Handwriting Without Tears). And, apparently, even though my older daughters are nine and seven years old, they still enjoy FIAR books and activities, which, frankly, I didn’t do enough of, with either of them. So, they are reliving kindergarten, and having a blast. (Reminder: Audrey is doing sixth grade math and can spell as well as a 7th grader, and is on-track with her other subjects; doing K won’t damage her education, thankyouverymuch.)
7. My garden is doing fab. The past summer, in my first — 8′ x 12′ — bed, the most successful things I grew were: Clemson Spineless okra — which is actually still growing, here in late October. My okra bushes — five of them — are nearly six feet tall, and still producing, though more slowly, as it has cooled a bit. I also grew Lemon Queen sunflowers, which were amazing — a good 7-8 feet tall. Armenian cucumbers grew wonderfully and were extremely productive. The next-most successful plant was Fonzy Melons, which I grew from saved seed from an organic melon I had purchased early this year. And flowers — Sulphur Cosmos. They made lovely cut flowers all summer and are self-seeding in actually a rather invasive way. It’s a nice problem to have, actually. Oh! And a volunteer spaghetti squash was quite productive. Less successful were banana squash, Tatuma Calabacita summer squash, and a musk melon. I had a number of tomato plants come up volunteer — which I’m still growing — as well as a tomatillo plant which grew humungous and was covered in flowers, but never fruited. Dumb waste of space. I yanked it. In the places where I have pulled out and re-prepped the soil in this bed, I have planted Atomic Red carrots, Greyzini summer squash (which will grow here in the winter!), Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach, Super Sugar snap peas, white sweet Spanish onions, and zinnias, all from Pinetree Garden Seeds (which, yes, I know their test gardens are in Maine. But, I’m a sucker for small, family-owned seed companies). I have had a heck of a time getting the carrots and spinach to germinate, but the Greyzini has its first tiny fruit already growing! I have prepared a larger, 12′ x 12′ bed “next door” to my first bed. That sucker took ALL SUMMER AND FALL for me to prepare, as a) bermudagrass is so, so, so, so horridly invasive; b) our clay soil is hard and heavy; c) I worked on it in my “spare” time. The bed is now waiting for me to till in all the amendments. I haven’t done that because a) it has rained so much in the last week that the ground is too wet! and, b) I bought a rototiller and a friend from high school fixed it for me, but our schedules haven’t allowed us to meet up for him to return it! And, I don’t want to till 12′ x 12′ of heavy clay soil by shovel. In the new bed, I’ll be sowing more sugar snaps, Harris parsnips, Ching Chang bok choy, more carrots, Top Bunch collards, a leaf lettuce mix, Cardinal chard, Homemade Pickles cucumbers, more onions, Red Cloud beets, Gaillardia, and nasturtiums. Although I haven’t actually planned out the space exactly to see if I can fit all that into the bed… I might have to pull the okra, which I was considering trying to overwinter.
8. We’re still plugging away at our home remodel. I’m kind of weary of it, so I won’t say much about it, except to admit that it’s still in process.
9. We are still at Vineyard Phoenix and absolutely are in love with our local representation of the Body of Christ. (If you click the link, that is my hubby in the video on the front page.) God is good and moving mightily by His Spirit. People are getting saved and healed. It’s really an amazing church, and I’m so happy to be a part of it. I’m leading worship again at a small home group, which I greatly enjoy. I also am teaching the 4s and 5s Sunday morning preschool class once a month and singing on the worship team usually about twice a month. Our head pastor — whom I’ve known since I was 15 (I’m 42) — stepped down to a semi-decreased, semi-retired role in July, which gives him greater liberty to immerse himself in missions and apostolic ministry. As I type this, he’s in Zambia. My hubby’s best friend, Doug Scott, is now our head pastor. I adore Doug. I’m biased, but…. seriously…. I feel like God has given me absolutely GOLD with the church in which I get to participate.
10. As I mentioned at the beginning…. I’ve been given the go-ahead to start my chicken flock!! I’m super-excited. I just need to go now and get that figured out. 🙂
11. My husband is awesome, and I’m very grateful for him. NOTE: Awesome doesn’t mean perfect, nor does it mean that we don’t work, work, work, work on our relationship. We do. We have ups and downs. But, this November, we’ll celebrate 21 years of marriage that has been profoundly blessed and is the result of two people loving Jesus and not giving up on each other. HALF OF MY LIFE will be with that man, and it has been an honor.
My love and blessings to each of you who have read through this.
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.
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.
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.
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 days aren’t always wonderful. But, today has been smashing and I don’t want to forget it.
First, our mourning has been turned into dancing. Earlier this week, we discovered that the awful scraping sound emanating from my Land Barge’s engine was its last, dying gasp. It needed a new engine — to the tune of $3,500 or so. This morning, someone called to tell us that, essentially, he is going to pay for it. This “someone” is returning a favor for house plans that my husband designed for him. I must confess that I have groused somewhat about what I feel is people taking advantage of my husband’s generosity with his home-designing skills, which he frequently does for free, or very nearly so, on the side*. It seems to me that folks don’t comprehend the time, effort, skill, and flat-out genius that goes behind their remodel, or whatever. I have strongly suggested that he charge what he’s worth. He refuses. I pout and feel self-righteous about at least internally defending my husband. However, I will never breathe a word of complaint again. Even enters my mind I will remind myself that GOD IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL and HE WILL ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF US and no kindness is wasted in God’s economy. I will give all future unkindly thoughts** a kick to the curb and not let them enter into the dwelling place of my ponderings. Seriously. My mind is changed FOREVER. My paradigm is permanently shifted.
Secondly, something over the last week or so, of which we didn’t hear until today:
- Last week at our dentist’s office, as always, my five year old daughter Fiala was unfailingly kind and encouraging. She told the dental assistant, Shawn, that she looked beautiful, and gave her a hug and a kiss.
- Shawn went home, and when asked about her day by her elementary-school-aged son, she said that a little girl made her day, describing the incident with Fi… They talked about the name “Fiala”.
- The son’s teacher is pregnant with a little girl and (bravely!) told the students that she would let one of them name the baby. She set up a suggestion box in the back. Shawn’s son wrote down “Fiala”.
- The teacher announced yesterday (I think) that her new baby would be named Fiala.
- Buh-bam! Darling girl is a trend-setter, spreading her sweet spunkiness and genuine affection, getting babies named after her.
*He is also paid to design houses in his full-time job. 🙂
**At least on this topic. 😉
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.
The babymoon filled with tortilla chips* and ice cream** is over.
I won’t say that we’ve returned to “normal”, though that is what I was initially thinking… “Wow! We’re approaching normal!” There is no “normal”. And, upon further reflection, it was like thinking, “Hey, baby! You’ve upset our family’s routine! You rascal! How could you do that?? You’ve DISTURBED things!!” And, truly, I don’t think that.
But on the other hand, I have been working to re-establish a new flow to our family.
I wrote this to a friend yesterday, who probably instantly regretted asking me how I was doing:
But, just to be real, yesterday SUCKED. It was the worst mothering day in a solid year, if not more. Frankly, Jean cries a lot. That isn’t bad, theoretically. I was telling my kids that Ethan cried a lot, and he turned out just fine. Some babies are just… needier than others, and I am happy to provide that extra comfort, extra soothing, more careful… care. But, OTOH, it means a lot of time in my room with the door shut, nursing (not that I always nurse behind closed doors), soothing, trying to help Jean sleep… and then my children are like Lord of the Flies out there, unattended, giving into sin nature, selfishness, unkindness, sneakiness, bullying… Ugh. I kind of flipped out yesterday. For a valuable 45 min of time when Jean was napping, I sat the five down and we went over Colossians 3:12-17. We talked. I lectured. We prayed. But did things improve? No. I had to spank***. I called Martin. And today hasn’t been much better…. But, I’m trying. Played Bethel YouTube worship videos for four hours straight in the main living area of our home, both to worship and sing, and to just invite the Holy Spirit in our day. And I have nipped everything in the bud, as much as possible.
There would be days like these in the past and I would think that I have totally failed as a mother. The good news is that I feel like it’s a temporary failure from which we all need to recover. I need to pull the reins in on my kids after letting things coast, slide, for too long. And they need to be loving and to obey.
So, see? There’s no normal.
But, this morning represented a step in the right direction: For the first time in Jean’s six weeks and two days of life, I made myself a “real” breakfast. Granted, I absolutely gulped it down, so as to eat it hot, in case Jean awoke. But, it was: Three eggs, tomato slices, avocado slices, a cup of raw milk, and coffee. YUM. The first week of Jean’s life, I ate like a queen, because my hubby fixed my breakfast, and delivered it to me in bed. The time since then has been altogether spotty: A hastily eaten bowl of cereal (and I don’t even eat cereal!), a protein bar, a hastily-eaten pear, occasionally asking one of my boys to fix me eggs… Or, more likely, me looking at the clock at 11:00 a.m. and thinking, “Crap. I haven’t eaten anything yet today.”
Speaking of food… While I absolutely, 100% agree with the thought that post-partum mothers should not give in to an appearance-centered culture that pressures us, “How are you going to lose that baby weight???”**** I also know that I’m carrying 12 extra pounds from the pregnancy — not much, I know! — and
- It’s crazy how much even just 12 pounds can make your clothes NOT fit. Even tee shirts.
- I know that most of that wouldn’t be there had I not daily indulged in food I shouldn’t be eating in the first place: like the aforementioned tortilla chips, ice cream, and cereal.
- I just feel better when I’m trim, when I don’t to have to select clothes that hides one sloshy part or another.*****
So, unless I want to purchase a whole new wardrobe — which WOULD be nice, but
- Where would the money come from to do that?
- More importantly, where would the TIME come to do that??
I need to lose at least some of that weight.
Hence, the subtraction of the carb-laden foods, and the triumphant reemergence of healthier food…
*Organic, from Costco. I love those chips!!
**Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra. It was a lot easier to resist when I had to purchase it for $5/pint from the grocery store or wait for a coupon. In the last year, pre-baby, I probably indulged twice. But, since we discovered that the regular price at Walmart is $2.88/pint, and I got my hubby hooked on that particular flavor, it’s been MUCH harder to resist. “Babe!” he grins, coming in the door with a bag from Walmart, “I got you some ice cream!” Hahaha!!
***I probably just lost a good 10% of my readers right there. “SHE SPANKS???” Um, yes. On occasion. I can’t remember the last time I had spanked anyone, prior to Tuesday; a couple of months, at least. It’s not my go-to discipline; it’s my last-resort discipline.
****And if you haven’t read Sarah Bessey’s fabulous post on the Duchess of Cambridge’s post-partum hospital appearance, you should. Absolutely, you should.
*****And we’re not talking “skinny” here. I’m at 150 lbs now, and my goal is 140. Pre-baby, it was 138 lbs.
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.)