October 31, 2010

Coming Full Circle

 I love my garden. I love the dirt. I love how amazing it looks right after it's been tilled. I love how my feet sink in just a little bit when the earth has been freshly turned. I love the rows of little sprouts in the spring and how each row is distinct, how the bean sprouts look completely different from the radish sprouts and the potato sprouts.

Mostly I love the cycle it represents; how it makes me happy, quiets me and satisfies me; how it gives me endless pictures of God.......and how we watched the garden go full circle as a family.

Last fall I marked the corners with white spray paint, trying my hardest to make the corners perfectly square so Adam would be impressed with my precision. The kids and I watched him break ground, seeing the tough sod break and fold under the strength of the turning tines.

Like I do with nearly every decision I make, I questioned myself and cringed a bit at the location I chose; it's so hard to know if this was the right spot. I mean, what if I don't like it here? What if it's too shaded? Too close to the grove? To accessible to deer, rabbits? To far from the house?

But because I've learned that sometimes - maybe most of the time - you just gotta commit and jump in with both feet, I smiled and told Adam it was perfect. And like most other things, if it's a mistake, we'll find out soon enough, we'll learn from it and go from there.

After that, the new garden was soon covered in feet of white snow, and in January I began excitedly paging through seed catalogs and plotting the garden blueprint. Then, at a surprisingly early time in the spring, the snow melted into a swamp that I thought would never go away.

But it did. Before I knew it, it was dry enough for spring tilling, and at a time later than I would have liked, we marked rows with stakes salvaged from the barn and sowed rows upon rows of beautiful little seeds.

Within weeks, precious little sprouts of all shapes and shades of green poked their little heads up through the coarse dirt of the new garden. Nearly every day I would take my tots out there to check for something new springing up. I was shocked by how quickly they learned to identify these plants. Asparagus, in the amazing old patch that we stumbled across when deciding whether or not to buy this property (I can say with almost complete sincerity that the asparagus sealed the deal for me), was the first thing they learned to identify and begin to harvest.

Later came radishes, and my babes could tell those from the onions and the lettuce and the green beans that were slowly filling out the rows of our garden. We enjoyed many salads of tender, frilly leaves while patiently waiting for the Indian Corn to germinate and the squash leaves to fill out the back half of the garden.

One day, just shortly after the fourth of July, I was shocked to find green beans ready for the pickin'. Not just well-they-can-wait-a-few-more-days kind of green beans. These were I-gotta-pick-em-right-now kind of green beans.

In the coming weeks, we picked bucket after bucket after bucket of long gorgeous beans. The kids and I ate them at least twice a day, and the freezer ran night and day trying to freeze all the bags of blanched beans I crammed in there - 55, 2-cup bags in call.

Then came the peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini. We chopped and crunched and baked and steamed and salted and preserved until there were days when I could hardly stand to look at one more item pulled out of that garden.

But you see, it's all so addicting. Even in the heat and the sun with the bugs and the dirt, the garden draws me and calls my name. The kids would romp in the dirt and fill buckets with deeply colored garden bounty while I would weed and inspect. Even during naptime I would still sneak out there in my flip flops and enjoy gathering and tending by myself while the sun beat down on my back and the cornfields surrounding our property grew before my eyes and hedged us in.

When July waned and the heavy hand of August settled upon us with it's golden evenings, it was time to pull the onions and begin picking the bushels of tomatoes. I learned to can and filled the freezer full to the brim.

September came with crisp days, and my little gardeners and I enjoyed the first of the fall produce and finished digging up potatoes.

I was ready to be done with the garden for the year but mustered up enthusiasm and harvest power for the last that the garden had to offer.

(this is only half of the squash we harvested this year)
And finally, when all had been gleaned from the garden, we pulled up the dried vines and dead stalks and filled two large composts piles. (I was amazed when Jack and Ava noticed Daddy digging a second hole and they exclaimed, "Mommy! Another compost! Two composts!" Apparently all the trips out to the "first" compost during the summer with buckets of kitchen scraps actually made sense to them.)

The seeds we had carefully sown had become plants that bore more food than we could eat, and now their dry shriveled remains are buried in dirt and a summer's worth of kitchen scraps slowly becoming the food for future gardens.

It was therapeutic to empty the garden - all four of us working together in the chill of an October day. And once again, Adam began to till the ground, turning the dirt over. Because he's so sweet, he tilled around my brilliantly blooming marigolds bordering the edge of the new and old gardens, even though it would have been much easier to pull them up and till right through.

I stood there, holding my tots' cold hands, and reflected on the past 6 months of gardening. One of the things I like the most about gardening is that there is always next year. Next year there will definitely be less green beans and at least twice the tomatoes. I am going to try much harder to keep the critters from eating my beets; I can't go another summer without garden fresh beets. New additions will likely be peas and carrotts, and the brand new, haven't-grown-since-childhood item will be popcorn.

The smell of fresh dirt ticked my nose just like it had last year upon ground breaking, and my feet sank in just a little bit as we walked across the garden on our way back to the house.

October 25, 2010

I've Got Oxen in my House

Somedays I feel as if I live in a barn. There is laundry piled high only a few feet from where I am currently sitting. The kitchen floor is oddly sticky, along with the bathroom sink. Nearly every surface is covered in dust. The inside of the refrigerator looks anything but sanitary. It's fall, so that means every window sill and almost all of the upstairs of this refurbished old farm house is covered in dead and dying flies.
Even when I do manage to clean one room - I mean really clean, I'm usually greeted in another room by something like this:

It can be rather demoralizing. I know that in light of eternity whether or not my house is clean  does not really matter; but in the moment, when there's more gravel and dirt on the kitchen floor than in the driveway, when I can't see out the living room windows because of hand and lip prints, and when there are toys EVERYWHERE my mood and sanity are seriously affected.

One day I stumbled across this passage:

"Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
but much increase comes by the strength of the ox."
Proverbs 14:4

When I first came across this (and the coordinating footnote in my Bible), I instantly applied it to my cleaning situation. If I didn't have any oxen children in my house, my trough house would likely be a bit tidier. But what would my life be without my children?

The footnote in my Bible implied that the oxen in this verse represent power, and as much as I hate cliches, there's one that goes "The hand the rocks the cradle, rocks the world." My "power" to change to this world, to affect the generations, is in my children. Can I raise Godly, moral, responsible citizens who will adhere to Biblical truth, go against the flow, vote, etc? In doing that, my house will likely not make it into Better Homes and Gardens, but the "increase" that will come to me, my children, and society will be worth the cobwebs and stains.

So I'll plunge my hands into the soapy dishwater and attack the sticky pots and pans while I praise my oxen children, discipline them, remind them, sing to them, and pray with and for them. It's never ending, but there is no "arriving" here one earth - no final cleaning, no "there, it's done," no preventing mistakes, no shiny trough. It's in the journey.

Thanking God with Ann and all the others over at Holy Experience for:

#11. a husband that enjoys vacuuming

#12. a husband that took it upon himself to clean a bathroom on Saturday while I was at a bridal shower

#13. main floor laundry - after living with public laundry and basement laundry for 6 years, having it on the main floor as revolutionized my life

#14. a quiet, rainy weekend

#15. impromptu visits with family from both sides over the weekend

#16. a dishwasher that keeps the pile of dirty dishes in the sink to an acceptable minimum

#17. toddlers that think it is novel to clean up their toys at the end of the day - I'll just enjoy it while it lasts!

#18. all of our clothes - the ones tucked in drawers and hanging in closets and the ones in color coordinated piles in the laundry room

#19. another quiet rainy day to catch up

#20. kids quietly playing well together this morning

holy experience

October 24, 2010

The Applesauce Adventure

A few weeks ago, Carsen and his mom, Kelly, came over to make applesauce. There is usually a third mom in our party - the more practical one- but she had already beaten us to it. So without our counterpart, the two of us moms, along with three 2-year-olds, set out to turn 5 bushels of apples into mushy goodness for our families.

The contraption, borrowed from my mother-in-law, that we used to turn cooked apples into sauce was set up the night before by my husband, and thank goodness! I've set it up before, but that was prior to loosing most of my brain cells from mothering toddlers, and that thing has numerous pieces.

The next morning, with everything set up and bowls in place, we began chopping and chopping. We filled up pots and saucers with apple chunks, and soon they were simmering away on the stove.

The day was heating up to be the warmest of the fall, and with four burners going on the stove, the kitchen was soon sweltering at 80 degrees!

Our tots played amazingly well while we chopped, cooked, mashed, packed, and sealed. But the rest of the world was not about to leave us in peace  for a few hours of domestication. The phone rang, and even though I abhor telemarketers, I do not have the heart to be rude and hang up. So I listen to the pitch and assure the lady that we're fine without her amazing septic remedy and that I really and truly do not know of anyone else with a septic system. I explain that everyone (well....almost everyone) I know either has an old grandfathered-in system with sewage draining into to the ditch or they live in town. We mumble good byes and I return to my applesauce station.

Shortly after this, I notice 2 strangers walking around my yard. Before they ring my doorbell, I realize that they are a part of a local religious group that frequently does door to door evangelism. I cringe a bit, but answer the door with a smile.......after grabbing the big bowl of apple "poop" (my term for what spits out the back end of the apple-sauce-making contraption - mostly seeds, cores, stems and skins that are compacted and very gross looking) in an attempt to look very busy. The bowl of discarded apple parts barely phases my guests, and we embark on a friendly discussion of heaven and God's expectations of us. I try very hard to bring up the topics that I know to be controversial between their faith and mine, but maybe they were indeed scared by my bowl of apple poop because they gracefully skirted around those issues.

The literature toting guests leave, and Kelly and I simply chuckle. We continue our process and our large pile of apples begins to slowly shrink.

The manual contraption, however, apparently needed some tweeking by this time as every crank of the wheel caused applesauce to ooze out of the device in every conceivable spot. There was applesauce on the counter, splattered on the wall, and dripping on the floor. There was so much dripping on the floor, in fact, that we placed an ice cream pail on the floor to catch the extra. By the end of our project, the 5 quart pail was half full, and although dear Carsen nearly knocked it over, I was able to salvage it all and fed it to my family over the next week!

As I mentioned before, our children have been busy playing, so busy in fact, that I failed to notice my little girl was in the bathroom taking off her skirt and undies. While Kelly was performing a toddler head count and safety check, she discovered that my little princess had just had a bathroom accident of the ummmm....... solid variety. Without skipping a beat, we moms go from admiring our smooth homemade applesauce to admiring the princess' BM. (You see, I'm never mad over an accident of this sort. I'm just so glad she actually goes; it's a bit of an issue for her).

Not being one to miss out on something exciting, Jack joins us in the bathroom. What he doesn't take into consideration, however, is that the little girl has also peed on the floor, leaving the tile a bit slick. He runs into the room and .....SPLAT.....his legs slip out from under him and he belly flops onto the floor. Laughing in spite of it all, I clean up the bathroom, clean up the kids, and wash my hands at least twice before returning to the applesauce brigade.

At this point, Kelly's phone rings and she is informed that friends, whose family includes a doctor and US Congressman, from out of state have just landed their private airplane at the local airport. Without Kelly's vehicle, they are stuck at the airport, so she takes off to pick up her friends, and they all return to my house to drop off Kelly who is know stuck at my house.

The kids are getting cranky; it's naptime, so we quickly rap up our project.....which was what again? After all that, what was it that we originally set out to do? Oh yes, applesauce. We quickly package and seal and divide out 30 quarts of applesauce between the two of us.

What a day! What a project! But what fun! And what a blessing to have a freezer stocked with homemade applesauce.

October 18, 2010

The Critical Ingredient

What do you do when you realize that you forgot the most important ingredient? When the timer goes off and you pull the cake out of the oven and see that it is still bubbling after an hour at 350 degrees and you realize that you forgot to add the flour? When this was what you were going to bless your family with? A homemade chocolate cake - ruined.

What do you do when your husband heads back into town for his last customer of the day and the little girl, who has been doing amazingly well with this potty training thing, has three accidents in less than half and hour? When you've used up the last pair of clean undies? When there's pee on the carpet in two different spots?

What do you do when the toddlers refused to nap today and now, at 45 minutes before bedtime, they are fussing and wandering around with glazed over eyes? When they have yet to be cleaned up for bed and have teeth brushed and you still haven't put the supper dishes away? When the husband still isn't home?

What do you do when you tell yourself that maybe tonight I'll let myself watch my favorite TV show while I'm tidying the living room and attempting to clean urine out of the carpet but turn it on to see the football game has taken over air time and your show won't be on?

I'm tempted to scream, to run away, to cry, to sniff out any source of chocolate and crawl under my desk and eat it all.

But I've tried those things. They don't help.

No, rather I will search.  While my eyes sting with the selfish tears uncried and while my heart beats wildly with panic over loss of control, over perceived loss of time, over a ruined chocolate cake, I know I am surrounded by them. While I'm scrubbing and soothing and rocking, I will look for them. I know they're here. In all of this mess and chaos, I can still find them.

Yes, Grace and Gratitude are here. But I have to choose them. God's fingerprints of grace are here beautifying the mess, the essence of Who He Is permeating each moment. His gifts are everywhere if I choose to be grateful for them.

These are the critical ingredients. It is grace and gratitude that are the flour of my existence. Together they are the substance that will turn an ooey gooey mess into a delicious masterpiece. The chocolate, the butter, the sugar, the oil - they are all wonderful things, but without flour, they just bake up into a slimy, inedible mess. I need substance. I need what will hold everything together and give my life form.

And so I vow to find them, to name them, to count them....until I find at least 1000. I've been meaning to start this journey of intentional gratitude for weeks now, but every moment is harried, filled with the completing of undone tasks. No moment seems just right enough to begin naming and counting and thanking God for all the blessings I'm surrounded with.

So I choose this moment. When the grace seems to wear thin and when gratitude seems impossible, I begin to search and count.

I thank God for ~

#1. the night time rituals of my little girl - waving na-night, signing "I Love You," and blowing kisses

#2. countless cuddly blankets given to us by so many to snuggle the toddlers with

#3. how both my children love books & want me to keep reading

#4. Pandora-free internet radio- playing piano music over the speakers in the living room - it's vastly better than the TV show anyway

#5. the sound of the husband's Matco truck pulling into the yard

#6. the shed to park the Matco truck in

#7. little boy hands mussing up my hair while he says "I wuv you."

#8. the sound of the door opening as the husband comes home for the night

#9. seperate bedrooms for the toddlers, as they would keep each other awake in the same room

#10. His grace for each moment - reminding myself it's there even when I don't feel it

holy experience

October 11, 2010

For the Record - A Collision of Seasons

According to my sources, last year around this time it was snowing.

This year? I've been outside in shorts and a tank tops, munching apples that escaped the applesauce brigade, and brushing away super-annoying teeny tiny little black bugs that must be all jaws and teeth for as hard as they bite.

On Saturday, my husband mowed for, what I am sincerely hoping, is one of the last times for the year. At least he only mowed the new grass and I don't have to be out there pushing the walk behind around the trees and in the fence. We've been mowing since April....every weekend since April, and a little break would be nice.

We haven't had a hard freeze yet, a couple of light frosts, but all my flowers are still going strong and my tomatoes and green peppers are putting on new blooms. It find it rather hilarious; those plants must be so confused.

There's quite a conflict of interests at the back door...

...with the Impatiens' summery blooms vying for attention while the noise of the crunchy leaves demands that we admit it is fall.

And the front entry is holding its own contest of seasons,

while more Impatiens hold their own at the gate of the fence.

Thinking back, we've had truly great weather for the past 8 months - outside of one rainy August day and a disappointing girls' trip to Detroit Lakes. (We should have saved that trip for October!)

So for the record, we have had nearly a week of October days with highs around and above 75. While I was busy making applesauce with a friend last Friday, my mom and 10 year brother went swimming at the beach! We harvested pumpkins and watermelon out of the garden in the same day, biked to town for ice cream cones and hiked in the leaves in the same week.

It's a collision of seasons. I think I'll take it.

October 8, 2010

Lest I Forget

I was standing on the kitchen floor, cleaning up after some meal and overheard the kids playing in the play room. Jack was busy cooking something on their kitchen set, and he presented Ava with whatever he had made.

Ava in her crystal clear little girl voice declares, "Oh thank you Jack! Good job! It's beautiful!"

(Okay, so the picture is 9 months old, but it goes with the story)


We prayed for our supper, thanking God for the food and dug into the meal. The microwave beeped, reminding me that I still had cooked broccoli to serve the kids. I bring it over to the table and dish up a portion of the veggies to Jack and Ava.

Ava looks at the steaming green pile and then at me. "We need to pray to the broccoli!"

I laugh and say, "How about we pray to God and thank Him for the broccoli?"

(Again, old photo that fits the story)


Adam and I were working on our never-ending landscaping project one weekend afternoon.

Ava had been sitting on Adam's tractor for awhile and when she decided she was done, she stood on the platform (or floor?) of the tractor (I really don't know what else to call it) and called out, "Jack! Help me down!"

Being in a jovial mood, he quips "Okay" and runs to the tractor, climbs on to the mower deck, and wraps his arms around her hips. He picks her up and steps backwards off the tractor. They both spill to the ground and Ava cries. Jack bounces back up and attempts to sooth Ava.


We were getting ready to go for a bike ride and ing and ping were climbing into their bicycle trailer. I begin to buckle them in when Ava declares she doesn't want to be buckled in. I explain to her we must be buckled in behind the bike.

Ava states, "Oh to keep us safe from the bugs."

"No dear," I return, "the screen keeps the bugs off. The buckles keep you safe in case of an accident."

Ava looks at me and says, "Oh. But I won't pee in the stroller.

Not that kind of accident.

October 3, 2010

The Road I'm On

I've traveled many roads.

Looking only at a post-highschool time frame, I've been on the Marine-Corps-girlfriend/fiance/wife road.

I managed to survive the working-two-jobs-and taking-college-classes road.

I traversed the pregnant-and-working-what's-our-future-gonna-look-like road.

And mothering twins has brought me down lots of roads.

Each road that I've traveled has had it's own trials, it's own joys, and more importantly, it's own lessons. I remember so clearly the moment during Adam's second combat deployment when I realized that all of the pain and heartbreak wasn't just something to be endured 'til it was over. It wasn't just a time to survive and wait out 'til the better times. Even though this road was lonely and uncertain, it was worth living and embracing just as much as the happy moments my husband and I worked so hard to cherish and not take for granted. And in the embracing of the hurt and in the facing the lonliness head on, God taught my heart lessons, seasoned my faith in Him, and girded my soul with His promises.

And each subsequent road broad equally vital lessons; most importantly the lesson that even, and maybe even especially, icky life phases have incredible value.

I think about these roads often. And in doing so I'm forced to Face Myself now and the current road I'm on. Being a mother to twin 2 1/2 year olds has brought the worst and some of the best out of me. I've had to face the truly vile parts of my heart. I've had fall to my knees and beg God for wisdom and patience and grace and strength. Being the wife of a man working 14 hour days year-round to establish our new business has made me deal with selfishness and bitterness. It's made me look to God for gracious words to encourage him, to bless him, and to draw him away to spend time with family.

There are times I wish this road was over, but I know such thoughts are futile. There is some lesson to be learned, so I might as well embrace my road.

And I'll link up to Jess' Facing Myself Photo Challenge a bit earlier this month and cringe at how silly I think I look in the above photo! This is all about being vulnerable, right?

Facing Myself

This is me, and this is the road I'm on.

(on a side note: I'm feeling a little insecure about my photos this month. Having the kids in my photos last month helped to ease the "I feel stupid doing this" feeling. Plus, the lighting oustide was very stark and I was having problems achieving a balance between getting enough light on my face and not making the background look gross, which I still think it kind of does. Any critiques for me on that? I suppose I could have cropped more of the background off.)

(Also, funny story for those who care:  Notice the spots on my left knee? That's blood - fresh blood. In one set of photos, I hit the timer button, pressed the shutter, and ran around my tripod. However, my favorite old working outside boots have NO traction and I slipped on the gravel falling to both knees! I heard the shutter click 5 times (I use the burst setting for my self portraits) as I brushed gravel off my paints. I now have 2 skinned knees and a bruise the size of Conneticut. Just gonna blame it on Jess!)

October 2, 2010

Those September Days

Good bye September days.

They were a little soggy this year and a little cool. But they ended delightfully.

We spent these days harvesting the last of the garden treasures.

We finished digging in landscaping edging.

We played in the dirt

and watered flowers that were dry when everything else was still too wet.

We watched and listened as harvest began around us.

And I soaked in the stillness, the quietness, the heaviness of this beginning-of-fall air.

The evenings so saturated with color,

 the mornings so full of quiet and promise,

everything heavy with seed, the fruit of the season, the satisfaction of gathering in, the hope for tomorrow, the promise of next year.

Mostly, good bye summer. You were truly great, truly exhausting in a work and fun filled way.

Welcome autumn, the season of contentedness, bringing in, and turning towards home.