Category Archives: Travelling
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.
Why it was good for me to drag my tired hind-end to small group last night… What I could have missed.
Small update to yesterday’s complain-y post.
The leader of my small group chose to teach/discuss passion for Jesus, and how His love for us stirs our hearts to love Him, and what that looks like, and how we live that out…
I got to share a story from this past week, where I had and opportunity to show love to someone when I didn’t feel like it. I know that sounds minor, sounds insignificant. But, to me, it was extremely challenging under the circumstances yet I knew it was something God was calling me to do. And the results, the fruit of that, have been wonderful, beyond my hopes.
Later, we worshiped — which is toward the end, and which was really wonderful. And I was grinning during part of worship, as I sang, if nothing else because two of the four songs I chose were so very fitting. I love it when that happens. Occasionally, people will ask the leader and me if we planned out the teaching to match with the worship or vice versa, and we say, “No… that’s the Holy Spirit.”
So, the first song was Sing, Sing, Sing by Chris Tomlin.
What’s not to love about You
Heaven and earth adore You…
You are the love that frees us
You are the light that leads us…
But even more fitting was Consuming Fire by Tim Hughes.
Consuming fire, fan into flame
A passion for Your name
Spirit of God, fall in this place
Lord, have Your way
Lord, have Your way with us…
Stir it up in our hearts, Lord
A passion for Your name!
Maybe that doesn’t mean much to y’all… But it was like God saying to me, “See? It’s good of you to be here. And, see?? You hear from me, even when you’re not particularly trying to.”
After “official” worship is over, I continued to play guitar, as I always do, in what my husband calls “covering the environment”. There were small clusters of people, praying for each other. Often, during that time each week, I’ll just strum a chord progression, building it up, then bringing it down… About half of the time, I’ll sing prophetically, usually fairly quietly over the group: Just what I feel is in God’s heart to those gathered, in first person, His voice to His beloved… Among other things, it helps me feel connected with what is going on during ministry time. Since I’m the worship leader, there isn’t usually opportunity for me to pray for others, and only occasionally do others pray for me during that time. I’m totally OK with that. But, if I’m singing over the people, I’m still connected, and that’s good. Last night, I had a prayer rising up in my heart. Honestly, I don’t often vocalize what I call “prayer songs” — things that are on MY heart to God’s. But, not only was it welling up in me to sing, I sang quite loudly, which I don’t usually do. I usually stay in the background, not wanting to make it difficult for one person to hear another’s prayer… I would glance up every few minutes, and all those present were just soaking it in, eyes closed, hands open, receiving, listening, participating in their own hearts, voices occasionally harmonizing with what I sang. It just seemed that what was on my heart was on everyone else’s, too. It was really beautiful.
After the group was over, while most everyone was snacking, I got to talk with a woman… Well, she started to come to “my” small group only a few weeks ago. I could tell she was unsure about the whole thing… I had remembered — from some conversation long ago — that she was from farming country in Illinois. So, when she came to the small group for the first time, I rekindled that conversation and discovered that her son lives in the tiny town — population 1,785 — where my paternal grandmother is living (in a skilled nursing facility, about ten miles from the home of her birth). Again, perhaps that seems inconsequential, but it was another whisper from the heart of God to me, and more importantly, to this other lady, that she is CONNECTED to the Body of Christ, to this particular body of believers… Belonging to His family is important to God. So, I joked with her, “I waved to your son when I went to visit my grandma.” And we talked again about loving the land, and family farms, and being married to men who love the desert. It was good.
Later, after everyone had left, a mom who lives in the multi-generational home where our small group meets… Well, she and her husband have been fostering a child for THREE YEARS. Three years, since the child was only a few weeks old. And now the birth mother’s extended family have finally “won” and this darling child will be going to live with the stranger-family (strangers, though related by blood) permanently in a couple of weeks. HEART-WRENCHING. The whole thing has very much shaken me. But, I hung out with her afterward and we talked about the whole thing, which we do almost every week… And I felt God saying to me, “See? It’s good of you to be here. She needs this. You need this.” And on top of that, she wants to give me the little one’s crib for our new baby. A couple of months ago, a sweet friend re-gifted a different crib to me, that had been given to her, but it’s in dire need of new paint, and has been sitting in my storage room, waiting for me to get motivated. This “new” crib is gorgeous, dark wood, and in excellent condition. I felt both honored that she would give the crib to me… and having it will be a reminder to pray for that family.
And another woman… the matriarch of the home, had earlier overheard the conversation I’d had about the farm and said, “Sit down here. I want to read something to you that I read this morning” and she proceeded to read the whole of Psalm 65 in a translation I’d never heard: The Voice. It was achingly lovely.
9 You spend time on the good earth,
watering and nourishing the networks of the living.
God’s river is full of water!
By preparing the land,
You have provided us grain for nourishment.
10 You are the gentle equalizer: soaking the furrows,
smoothing soil’s ridges,
Softening sun-baked earth with generous showers,
blessing the fruit of the ground.
11 You crown the year with a fruitful harvest;
the paths are worn down by carts overflowing with unstoppable growth.
12 Barren desert pastures yield fruit;
craggy hills are now dressed for celebration.
13 Meadows are clothed with frolicking flocks of lambs;
valleys are covered with a carpet of autumn-harvest grain;
the land shouts and sings in joyous celebration.
She sent me a text this morning, early: “Karen dear… there are songs for you to write in Ps 65 (the Voice). I have the strongest urge to convey that to you I can’t even wait for a polite time to call you.” That made me cry. It was just one more whisper from God’s heart to mine. One more sweet ribbon, tying me to His heart and to His people… And I would have missed that, had I not gone to small group last night!!!
And then, to top the whole thing off, as I got into the car to drive the short distance home, I turned on the Diamondbacks game, and it was the bottom of the ninth, and J.J. Putz was closing it out… We were leading. I got home in time to see that last out being made, on TV. 🙂
And then I pulled out my book and read until I was drowsy, and then went to bed, very satisfied with the day, my heart full to overflowing, deeply content. I felt like God had redeemed the day: turned something that could have been an exhausting drag into something glorious.
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.
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…
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
- A stick, with an attached tag that said, “In case you find a dog.”
- A bag of bread cubes, whose note read, “In case you want to feed a duck.”
- A package of motion sickness tabs with a tag, “In case you go on a wild ride.”
- A small first-aid pack, “In case you get blisters from lots of walking on your adventure.”
- 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…
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.
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.
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.
In some ways, the clichéd accusation is true: my homeschooled children are sheltered. Two events happened in the last 24 hours, though, that made me chuckle while thinking, “Being sheltered isn’t such a bad thing.”
- Yesterday, I took the five children to the Prescott area, about an hour and a half north of here. Among other things, we picked up my nephew and went to Costco. So, I had six children, ages 3 – 16, in the store with me, and everyone was fabulous. I was so pleased with how smoothly everything was going, and wanted to bless them. So, I decided that everyone could have a frozen yogurt or a berry smoothie. Oh, I laughed as my children inadvertently reminded me how infrequently we do this sort of thing — both because of cost, the sugar, and because who knows what’s in “yogurt” at Costco?? I usually avoid that sort of stuff like the plague. But, this was a special occasion. “Chocolate, vanilla, or swirl?” I asked each child. “What’s swirl?” replied two of them — my six-year-old, Audrey, and my 15-year-old, Ethan. Swirl. They didn’t know what swirl was. Adding to Audrey’s confusion was the whole topic of “yogurt.” She is familiar with plain, whole milk yogurt, which she very often has for/with her breakfast. “Yogurt can be ice cream??” she marveled. Once we got it sorted out what swirl and frozen yogurt was, we could proceed. Ethan and Audrey both decided to try this novelty of an idea: swirl. I had chocolate and gave Fiala (my three-year-old, who has almost kicked a systemic, REALLY BAD candida albicans yeast infection) six little bites. Everyone else chowed down, and by the end, two of my children were saying it was too sweet and they had a stomach ache. Ha! It was a learning experience for all of us, and a really good ~$8.50 spent.
- Yesterday, we also received a package from Riega Foods for us to review*. Now, this isn’t the official review, but I had to share: I wanted to finish cleaning bathrooms before getting lunch ready, and the clock was ticking, especially since I sat down after being 80% done and chatted with my sister for a half-hour on the phone, which I absolutely do not regret. 😀 My oldest, Ethan, was especially interested in the cheese sauce mixes, and asked if he could make some macaroni and cheese for lunch. I thought this might be a good idea, especially since my dairy-free child is gone at a friend’s house for the day. Well, we didn’t quite have enough of the right sort of gluten-free noodles to make a whole meal of it, but I decided that he could work on that to be a “lunch snack” while I finished cleaning the bathrooms. Now, you need to understand something: Ethan is my sous chef. He is a great hand at food prep: washing, chopping, slicing, stirring, flipping, mixing, pretty much anything I need him to do at the cutting board and the stove top. Very often, I’m the brains behind making a meal, and he’s the brawn, doing a good portion of the actual work. So, it’s not like he’s inexperienced in the kitchen. However… he continued to come to me to ask me a question or two or three about the process of making what is the (almost) natural equivalent of Kraft Mac & Cheese — powdered mix combined with ¼ cup milk and a couple of tablespoons of butter. I was partly annoyed that he was having difficulty with such a simple kitchen task when it dawned on me, “He has very little experience following the directions on a package!!!” We make virtually everything from scratch, and I can’t remember the last time a “cheese sauce mix” was in our home!! He’s more accustomed to, “Slice these ¼-inch thick and sauté them in butter.” I finally had to stop what I was doing, and go over in great detail how to make boxed pasta. I also completely abandoned my annoyance, and was amused and rather pleased that, in his fifteen years of life on this planet, he has virtually no experience with “cheese sauce”.
*Stay tuned for a whole review and a giveaway!!!!
Thus ends the most French-filled blog post I think I’ve ever written.
I really don’t have writer’s block. I’ve written countless posts in my head! They’re just not happening in real life.
So… small updates:
Garden: It’s beautiful and flourishing, and it feels fabulous to eat my own hand-raised, organic veggies. It is truly decreasing my need to buy vegetables from the store. It has taken a while — more than a year — to really get GOING and productive. And, I still have lots and lots and lots to learn… it’s one of those areas of learning where you can never know ALL there is to know. Ever. Interestingly, though, I don’t mind that. Normally, I get a little cowed by problems with unending possible solutions; I like things that I can wrap my head around. However, I find that gardening is enjoyable even when I will never know everything there is to know. My most recent discovery: When the planting schedule says that you shouldn’t plant your green beans until March 15, February 20-something really IS too early, and your seeds really WILL rot in the ground when planted too soon. Bummer. A triumph, though: My hubby is taking my gardening seriously. I tend to get interested in things, and hit them hard for a few weeks or a few months, spend too much money on them, then my interest and devotion fizzles, which amounts to a lot of time and money wasted. So, he wasn’t robustly supportive of my garden plans, initially. Now, he TOTALLY is, probably because I’ve been faithful, instead of just excited. 🙂 And he can see the benefit. Last garden note: You MUST grow these carrots. I scrub them and we eat them unpeeled. They are gorgeous and tasty.
- Fiala’s health: I wish I could say that she is 100% better, but I can’t. She does continue to improve, and it is absolutely clear that her major struggle IS with a candida infection. However, it is taking longer to clear than I had hoped. And, she is not self-regulating. She is happy to “steal” a banana or a jar of honey, or even pull a carrot from the garden, whenever the opportunity presents itself. Then, the yeast in her system feeds on that sugar, and we have a setback that takes a week or two from which to recover. So, it’s kind of like three steps forward, two-and-a-half steps back. She still has head-to-toe “eczema” — which really isn’t eczema — and it’s worse in some places than in others. But, she has no open, oozy wounds, and over all, her skin, disposition, and general health has improved by, oh, about 40%. She is on oral and topical Nystatin, plus probiotics, colloidal silver, and grapefruit seed extract (in capsules). Plus a no-sugar diet, minus the 1/3 cup or so daily of blueberries — her lone joy in food. Actually, it’s funny, because now that we’re aware that SUGAR in food is her main problem, I’ve been letting her sample various sugar- and starch-free foods, and she just doesn’t like most of them. So, her diet is still very, very simple, very limited.
- My own health: I have improved SO GREATLY on a low-carb, sugar-free diet. Not only have I lost about 15 lbs, but instead of getting neck-to-thighs hives every single night, that lasts for HOURS and to be relieved only by a double-dose of Benedryl, I’ll get a patch here, a patch there, about twice a week, and it lasts for 20-30 minutes or so. So, I’m not 100% healed, either, but I’m getting close.
- Books: I should really do a whole post on “Books I’m Trying to Read.” I normally only read one book at a time, but I’m partway through about six books right now, none of which I want to put down, and for none of which I actually have TIME to read right now. The only one I’ve actually finished has been The Confession by Charles Todd (see next bullet point). And that took me nearly two weeks of whittling away… The others have taken — are taking, actually — much longer.
- Road trip! Two friends and I drove to Prescott a couple of weeks ago. It was a treasure of an afternoon — such a pleasant drive of wonderful conversation, lunch together, then a really awesome two-hour meet-the-author presentation by Charles Todd, which is actually a mother-and-son team. They were both present, and were such engaging speakers. It was interesting from all angles: as a writer, as someone interested in WWI (the setting for all their books), as a semi-Anglophile, as a fan… I’ve read all of their books, save one. My friends and I had lunch was at The Raven Cafe. I had researched which places had a gluten-free menu, and when we got to Prescott, my friend Kathy said, “After lunch, I hope we have time for the best cup of coffee in Prescott. It’s at The Raven.” The Raven was already on my short list of g.f. lunch spots!! It has such wonderful ambiance, and it stocks GLUTEN FREE BREAD. With my low-carbiness, I haven’t had bread in a couple of months. But, I broke with that for an amazing turkey melt sandwich with avocado, muenster cheese, and other good things, with a side of amazing sweet potato fries with garlic aioli. I was in heaven. The whole afternoon, I was in heaven. It was perfect. Kathy kept saying, “Is this really real? Is this really happening? Am I really in Prescott with two of my dear friends???” Now, I think I need to come up with more reasons to take little drives and spend a good chunk of a day with my friends. The whole experience is still glowing in my heart, two weeks later.
- Jobby-things: I know a while back I said I wasn’t going to make any writing-related work, but I had already told my author-friend Marietta I’d give her most recent book my once-over. So, I’ve been working on that. I also co-taught a small workshop on prophetic singing, which was a complete and total joy. I was absolutely shocked when I was handed a check for payment. It was a little disturbing, actually. I had to ask my pastor what he thought I should do with the money, and he said, “Keep it. You’ve invested hours of your time and commitment learning about this, making the teaching notes, investing in the prophetic and singing. Keep it and enjoy the fruits of your labor.” So, I am. Haven’t cashed it yet, though.
Saturday was the 17th anniversary of marriage to my dear, integrous, handsome, and highly talented husband, Martin. We enjoyed a fabulous day trip to central Arizona, where we enjoyed wine tastings at Javelina Leap Vineyard & Winery and Page Springs Cellars. Javelina Leap was more instructional and intimate. Page Springs was more impressive, large, and put-together. Page Springs had WAY more wines, but I think I enjoyed the experience at Javelina Leap better.
There are other wineries in the area, but we thought we’d better halt it at two. 🙂
We also very much enjoyed an hour or more meandering around the Page Springs Fish Hatchery nature area walking on the close, wooded trails, and watching the birds in and around the ponds. We saw a Black Phoebe, six or so Great Blue Herons, dozens of American Coots and American Widgeons, many Mallards, several White-Crowned Sparrows, and perhaps hundreds of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, which were a new add to my life birding list. We likely would have ID’ed more birds had we given it more time.
We spent the late afternoon and evening in old town Cottonwood, where there was a festival of some sort with a variety of interesting people, booths, music, art, and general funky, small-town atmosphere. We bought some Peruvian wool yarn for my sister, who was staying with my girls, and had dinner at the Tavern Grille.
It was a great day.
On the drive home, we stopped for Starbuck’s and watched the moon rise over the bare hills of central Arizona. Perfect.
When we got home, we discovered that my sister nearly died watching my girls. Not really, but she was in tears. Of course, she never let on about any of this while we were gone. 😦 She requested that she never watch the girls again without the help of at least two of my boys. We then sort of laughed over the apparent oxymoron of how it’s easier to care for five children than two. Plus her own 15 month old daughter. My sister Robin has a bad back, and she said that she realized that, most of the time she watches my children, she stays on the couch and gives orders to the older children, intervening when necessary. 🙂 Much easier than chasing around one-, three-, and five-year-olds, nonstop, for about twelve hours. She was in pain and a little horrified how Audrey in particular took advantage of Robin’s less-than-availability, instead of sympathizing and helping more, especially in light of how Robin had carted Audrey around to all sorts of special things that day — a birthday party, a paint-your-own-pottery place, the park…
I felt badly for Robin, and badly about raising a daughter who isn’t appreciative of the good things provided for her. I’m still sorting that out in my mind, and in a couple of conversations with my sister regarding parenting…
This provided a giggle, though:
When my sister was preparing dinner (“soop”), Audrey — who had attended a birthday party earlier that day with her own gluten-free cupcakes in hand — decided to petition Robin for a better dinner. “Mofin? Yes! Soop? NO!” It’s a “sparkle muffin” with frosting and sprinkles (a.k.a. a cupcake). Note the appropriately-placed smiley face and frowny face.
Overall, a good day.
Next time, I’ll definitely have mercy on my sister by leaving behind some helpers for her. 🙂