June 30, 2011

Do the Recycling First

Sometimes I wonder where the rational part of my brain goes.

Sometimes I wonder if maybe God intended for mommies to lose most of their rational brain because then they attempt things that always-rational daddies wouldn't.

Like when our suburban needed to be washed after the apocalyptic rain we had last week that turned our normally just-fine gravel road into some sort of mudding nightmare. The recycling also had to go as did the stack of children's library books.  And the poor dog, who simply must have more socialization in her early life if she is to be tolerable in her adult life, was hoisted into the back of the vehicle. I thought a quick trip to town with us would be good for her, hearing the sounds of the car wash (she has a weird thing for new sounds and already shows protective tendencies towards me) - which she's done before - looking out the windows and such.

When I missed the turn for the recycling, I made a decision I would later regret.

I would simply wash the car first.

This would work out just fine, my brain told me, giving the SUV time to dry off in town before venturing back down our gravel road.

I pulled into the car wash, collected my huge pile of quarters, assisted the kids to climb into the back of the suburban to play with the dog (we've done this before and it's always worked out great), and set out to power wash layers of dried mud and gravel off my white vehicle.

Only shorty after getting started, I could hear Ava's cries over the sound of the intense spraying of water. I release the trigger, open the door and inquired what the tears are about.

"Jack is spilling the recycling," came a horrified reply from a red-faced, tear-strained, sun-bleached-white-haired little girl in a pink dress.

Why didn't I just do the recycling first?

"It's okay honey. We'll clean it up. Can you just pet Belle while I finish washing the car?"

The time is ticking on the clock and I've still got a long ways to go on getting the car clean.  But Ava just wouldn't calm down, and I decided Jack could stand in a corner and watch me wash the car.

Silly me. Did you read those words?  Jack stand in a corner. Really, where did my brain go?

Instead, Jack ran around the car in his hand-me-down crocs, and I was certain he would slip on the suds, but that's the one thing that didn't happen. He picked up suds off the floor and smeared them on the car right after I had rinsed everything.  Somehow, I managed to finish washing the SUV with quarters remaining and decided to quick dry off the vehicle before heading out. The wind and dust would make this all a pointless endeavor unless we got some of the water off.

I knew Ava wanted to help dry the car, so I opened the back of the suburban to let her out. She's really such a dear, and by this time has cleaned up almost all of the recycling, putting everything but 2 large glass jars back into the bags. Those 2 glass jars found themselves right by the back door and came crashing down to the cement ground.

I stood there for a few milliseconds wondering why I even bother and why I didn't do the recycling first. But that was a few milliseconds too long, because it was just enough time for Belle to jump out and start running around the parking lot of this busy, smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-town gas station.

By this point, a small part of me had an out-of-body experience, hovering above this whole scene laughing hysterically as the rest of me lifted Ava out of the vehicle, told the kids to "STAND RIGHT THERE!" and ran after the dog who was barking at a few perplexed pedestrians.

Belle won't come to me right away if she knows I'm mad, so I assumed my "I really do love you, you stupid dog, and I want to pet you right now" posture. In my best "I'm your master/I'm the Alpha dog/I mean business" voice (which is totally different from my "you just ruined another one of my plants" voice), I called Belle, and by some miracle, she actually came. Maybe she was just scared of all this newness; maybe those few minutes of training on "Come" actually worked; maybe Belle has guardian angels. Either way, she got just close enough for me to grab her collar and lift her up, all 40 pounds of her mostly legs and ears body, and get her back into the vehicle.

Jack-Hammer, who apparently has never seen broken glass before, had by this time found the larger pieces of broken glass and was throwing them against the cement ground, watching them shatter. I gave him a brief lesson on broken glass handling and picked up as many of the pieces as I could.

Finally, we left the car wash, everyone safely buckled in, nearly all of the recycling collected, and this momma feeling slightly frazzled.

The rest of the trip is all a blur. We went in search of the recycling, which really isn't that hard to find, but I drove by it twice and never would have seen it unless Jack pointed it out. We also had to circle through the labyrinth of one-way streets around the library twice because I forgot to drop off the books the first time.  And I left a pile of quarters at the car wash.

Lesson learned: Do the recycling first.

June 29, 2011

The Night Summer Came

I sat there in the living room with him in the hours of pausing between the weeks. The rain, the clouds, the work, the relief of finally knowing from the previous week. The forecast of sun and heat, the plans, the hope, the work of the upcoming week. The kids in bed slumbering, so tired. Just him and I in this small window of quiet, enjoying a casual special supper for the two of us, a Sunday evening tradition that seems to become more and more infrequent with each passing year.

The windows were all open, the soft evening breeze fluttering in. We noticed our birch tree turn pink. The birds sang louder. The breeze quieted. Everything suddenly still.

Something was happening.

We went out to the deck to take it all in. The red sky glowed around us, the humidity a heavy blanket encompassing us. Every leaf, every twig, every flower softly defined in the evening's glow. Everything poised and looking its best for the arrival.

Nothing moved, nothing breathed, as if any sudden motion would scare it away. Summer, that is. An illusive creature this year.

Quietly she settled on us that evening as we watched. My soul breathed a sigh of relief. For weeks now I had been making it happen, all the motions of summer without the actual presence of summer; donning summer clothes when it was too chilly, taking kids to the beach when it was too cloudy, planting seeds when it was too wet..... hoping against hope that summer would really happen and I wouldn't have to bravely fake it 'til fall.

There's no saying she's gonna stay now for a few months like she should. But for this week, I will soak it up, let summer happen around me instead of me making it happen.

And when, after weeks, my soul finally feels light, I will let every second penetrate my being. I will let the small things bless. I will not hurry.

And I will list.

#291. four-wheeler rides on Father's Day
#292. two tots and an uncle on one four-wheeler
#293. Momma, Daddy, and a tot on another four-wheeler
#294. trading tots out in the hay field
#295. the husband pausing here and there to share childhood stories with me: "I fell out of that tree." "That was our fort." "I took out a fence here." "We spent hours here skating, swimming, getting chiggers...."
#296. the tot sitting quietly, just listening to the stories with no questions, complaints, or demands, soaking up his roots
#297. going for daily walks down the gravel road with the little girl to pick wild flowers
#298. jars of wild flowers gracing our table
#299. dunking cookies into milk with my tots
#300. the brother-in-law stopping by to help put up the garden fence
#301. running out to the garden to snap the first of the spinach leaves to add to a morning smoothie
#302. forgetting to close the gate on my new garden fence and laughing at myself
#303. early morning walks/runs with the dog
#304. tired tots falling asleep in my arms before they even hit the pillow
#305. the smell of freshly picked rhubarb

June 24, 2011

The Toast

We were all dressed in our best. Me in my expensive red dress, Adam in his uniform, Ava in a flower girl dress found at a great price in a department store by auntie, and Jack in a hand-me-down tux with a brand new shiny red tie.

We had practiced with the kids....over and over.....on walking down the aisle side by side......behind Mommy and Daddy.

We were armed with suckers to coax little ones into group pictures, to reward them for getting to the front of the church, and to help pass the hours before the ceremony.

We smiled for a few hours of pictures by the coveted Visionari Studio, wrestling the tots into position and trying to convince Ava to keep her tongue in her mouth.

We survived a few melt downs and managed to brush the grass and maple seed "helicopters" off the little white dress. The sidewalk chalk from the previous Sunday's sunday school outing that Jack crawled through wiped off the tux nicely, and the HUGE scuffs on the hand-me-down black shoes from crawling on cement were covered up with a black sharpie.

We thought creatively through the few panicky seconds before walking the aisle when the little boy decided he wasn't going to do this. Momma carried Jack (who was completely done with all things wedding by that point) and held flowers with her left arm while holding the husband's arm with her right, and Ava walked right behind Momma and Daddy.

We smiled while standing up front, Momma and Daddy sending messages to each other with their eyes when Jack ran all the way back down the aisle yelling, "I want my Grandpa!"

We sighed with relief when the kids fell asleep during the 40 minute ride to the reception.

We ate the delicious meal from the wedding party table up front watching Grandma and Grandpa stay very busy trying to take care of the tots.

I felt my stomach begin to do summersaults as I thought of my upcoming toast. I felt I had written it in a hurry. There was so much I wanted to convey on behalf of my husband's brother and his wife. Our lives were intersecting at this point in so many different ways. I wanted to recognize the bride for all she had been through, and I wanted to encourage her for her upcoming journey. I wanted to speak out the feelings my husband and I had felt when we had been there and the feelings we shared with them at this current place in time.

I got the microphone from the DJ and wondered why in the world I felt nervous. I had surely spoken in front of larger crowds. In fact, I've done many more potentially embarrassing things in front of a crowd. I had won first place at Alex Tech's public speaking contest.

I loathed myself for having not memorized my toast. How tacky to be holding this piece of paper.

I turned to face the guests, and made myself remember everything I had learned about being in front of a crowd.

Hold the microphone this way for best voice projection.

Stand this way for the most poise.

Slowly scan the room with your eyes like this so that each person feels as if you are personally addressing them.

Now, make yourself say the words (and as a final tribute to the couple - you can find their story HERE - here's my toast to Steve & Kayla).....

"Good evening everyone.

On behalf of Steve and Kayla, I want to thank you all for coming. There’s not a single one of us here who wouldn’t say our life is busy, so it means a lot of to all of us that you came to celebrate them, their marriage, and their commitment to each other.

I also want to thank Steve for your service in the Marine Corps, and even more so for not choosing the path of least resistance, for volunteering for a combat deployment.
And thank you Kayla, for having the strength to let go. A year and a half ago at Steve & Kayla’s “legal marriage,” we all had to watch as Kayla let go of so many things; she had to let go of the plans they had already made for their wedding, she had to let go of her own personal dreams of that one special day, she had to let go of Steve.....she had to let go of certainty.

When the few of us toasted them on that wintery day, we talked about how the truest love and deepest connection come not just from the happy times but also – and even more so - from  faithfully enduring the bad times. 

Kayla was a beautiful example of what that really looks like, and Kayla was also a beautiful example of a military wife. A military wife’s job is not just to support her husband with letters and care packages and keep up with all the changes in addresses, but it’s even more so to represent her husband in such a way that not only brings honor and respect to him as a person but also to the job that he is doing. Kayla did this all with a smile on her face and selflessness in her heart.

And here we are today at a completely different juncture in their lives. But even so, there are some surprising similarities between what Steve and Kayla faced then and what they face now. Returning to civilian life isn’t as easy or as joyous as many would think. Just when you think you can afford some peace of mind and have earned some certainty in life, you find out that once again you have to let go; let go of the life you thought you would have, let go of the job you thought you wanted, and now that you’re finally together, you have to let go of yourself. And in the midst of all that is finding the balance between letting go and taking risks.

So today this is where Steve and Kayla are at. And as you two already know so well, it’s not just about surviving the moments, surviving the uncertainty and waiting for the clarity, it’s about living right through it all, it’s about learning from it all, and it’s in knowing that these messy, crazy, uncertain moments are the ones that make us who we are.
To Steve & Kayla...
To letting go...
To taking risks...
To ignoring the path of least resistance...
To this beautiful, messy life….
And even more importantly, to the One True God who’s in it all: He made it all, He’s orchestrating it all. May He get all the glory...
Semper Fi."

June 21, 2011

June is the New May

The little boy wanted to go outside and play in the rain.

The little girl wanted to stay inside.

So I made sure the girl was settled with crayons and markers and coloring books and went outside with the boy. I thought it would be a great excuse to (1) use his rain pants received as a birthday present again and (2) have some time with just him.

No one can exasperate me like my little Jack-Hammer can, and he's been pushing all the buttons and testing all the limits lately. I knew he needed his "love cup" filled in order to better understand and respond to the endless stream of corrections and discipline I've been sending his way. I thought this might give me the chance to do just that, and what better way to sow love into a little one than to sow into a garden together.....in the rain.

I'm not gonna say I didn't get frustrated, and I'm not gonna say I didn't express some of that frustration, but the two of us still had a good time.

He wanted to plant flowers. So we dug out some sunflower and nasturtium seeds and got in the mud.

His favorite part was getting sticks out of the grove to mark the rows.

My favorite part was when it started to rain again, and he stood over the camera slung across my back to keep it dry while I finished planting the last of the seed.  "I'll keep it safe Momma."

The little girl decided to join us about the time we were headed back to the house. And she was very excited about her outfit...

...Jack's crocs, a shower curtain ring bracelet, a hand-me-down Case bucket hat, a flower lei around her head, and her sunglasses.


In other gardening news, the kids helped me weed and rock pick (again) the whole garden before today's promised inch or more of rain. It looks great out there!  We also (finally) finished planting the 110 day Indian Corn and got the 110 day pumpkins in the ground.

One hundred ten days is a long time, but I'm not worried because someone (and you know who you are) keeps telling me that we are going to have another long and gorgeous fall like last year.

So in light of that and with the weather we've been having, I've decided June is the new May.

Linking up to KinderGARDENS.

June 20, 2011

What God Chooses to Give {Abridged}

I don't know what I am going to make for supper tonight.

That's quite unlike me. The menu hanging on the fridge is from last week.

But not knowing what to make for supper tonight is not the only uncertainty in life. And we ask for God to give us clarity and confidence and the next big thing. But what does God want to give?

bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give..."

I read those words over at A Holy Experience, and my head knows it's true. I try to impress them on my heart because my head is tired.

Let God give what God chooses to give

So I snap some asparagus out of the backyard patch and try to decide which to thaw out, venison, pork, or turkey.

The wind blows and the birds sing and the washing machine chugs and the kids play and tussle.....and the clock ticks.

What will God choose to give?

And how we will receive what He gives?

The tots play in the fence swinging on their tummies, throwing stuff in the kiddie pool, and yelling at each other over little disagreements. They only see what they want in that moment; they don't see the bigger picture. They don't see what Mom and Dad do. They don't fully understand that every "yes" and "no" we tell them is usually thought through what will best launch them into their future. And if I do this for my kids, how much more does God do this for me, to launch me into eternity?

He never holds back with His giving. His kingdom budget is driven by love not limitation. And what He gives in love may not make sense right now, but right now is not what matters. Tomorrow is not what matters. Eternity is what matters. And these twists and turns of today are only given to shape us for what matters.

Let God give what God chooses to give
Some days it seems my tots are never satisfied, never done wanting, needing.... always asking for that next thing. And even though it's my job right now to meet their needs and I typically enjoy doing so, I just want them to see what they already have, that they have so much, are so full........just be thankful....

And so I see that learning to receive and learning to be full of thanks are gifts in and of themselves. And I see that God gives this too......the ability to name those things when the uncertainty is nearly choking.
So God gives and we receive and we know that every good and perfect gift is from Him.

Back to counting again (this post a week old) and linking up HERE with the others receiving it all from Him.

#266. a quiet day after the busy wedding weekend
#267. standing up as best man and matron of honor for the couple
#268. Ava the flower girl

#269. Jack (and cousin) the ringbearers

#270. thinking the same thing at the same time as the husband more and more and more
#271. just him and I together on the couch cuddling after.....how long?
#272. getting a fancy up do for my hair
#273. rhubarb slush
#274. shells with chips and holes at the wedding representing those days with chips and holes

#275. perfect shells at the wedding representing those perfect days
#276. long red dresses
#277. uniforms
#278. tuxes
#279. the father-in-law's solos
#280. tears
#281. love
#282. eye contact
#283. Grandma and Grandpa helping take care of the tots so mom and dad could tend to best man and matron of honor duties

#284. Jack-Hammer wanting to dance every dance with momma....while be held
#285. the Best Man handing a Nuk to the groom instead of the rings
#286. uncertainty bringing us all closer
#287. the Best Man and groom changing into Khaki's and white button down shirts and looking just as amazing
#288. grandparents caravaning with the wedding party....Did they even know? Too funny....
#289. mothers in fancy dresses looking their best
#290. the moon shimmering on the lake

June 14, 2011

Takin' Pictures

Taking pictures and life have always gone hand in hand for me. Since I was the littlest girl, I've had a camera pointed at me. My mom always had her camera with her. And when I got my first job, she took me to a camera shop and helped me select my first real camera. She taught me the basics of manual exposures and how to acheive certain depths of field. I certainly wasn't great at it, but I learned to take my camera with me nearly everywhere I went, which is half the battle sometimes.

Since then I've gone digital, started getting lazy and used automatic settings, and finally owned up to return to manual settings. I don't always have the time to put the effort I would like into each photo I take, but I know there's more than just having an eye for composition. And I want to keep seeing what I might otherwise ignore.

I know a place where I can learn more.

Clickin Moms is an online photography forum where we can all go to learn more about our picture taking obsession. And today I'm writing for a chance to win a free life time membership to this coveted place.

You can too!

Jess at The Old Nichols Farm is hosting this giveaway and you can get your name in the hat by going HERE and following the steps!

Good luck!

June 13, 2011

Who Plants a Seed...

...beneath the sod

and waits to see

believes in God.

{Quote lovingly borrowed from a cross-stitched wall hanging in my mother-in-law's dining room.}


Gardening continues to be touch-and-go around here.

I felt horrifically guilty for planting a large part of the remainder of the garden by myself 2 weeks ago. It was a crazy week, and over the course of a few evenings with the kids either in bed or at Grandma's, I stole a few hours for myself in the garden; just me, an old Nike shoebox full of seed packets, and a garden hoe.

It was marvelous.

There were a couple large and stressful things in my life at the time, each of which had birthed several smaller, stressful things, and kneeling in the dirt with tear-stained cheeks was just the cleansing this girl needed.

But I got the tots back in the garden with me last week, and it was heart-warming to watch them run from row to row excitedly pointing out the things that have sprouted.

Jack-Hammer's Hat

The carrots they had helped me plant are up along with the potatoes, shell peas, lettuce, spinach, beets, green beans, popcorn, Indian corn, watermelon and cucumbers. Little seedlings just never cease to amaze me; they're each unique and full of hope. As Ava exclaimed, "Mom! They're so beautiful!"

We worked together to plant the snow peas, 3 varieties of squash, and zucchini. I dabble in seed saving, and after Jack-Hammer ripped open the envelope of Buttercup squash seeds saved from last year's harvest, I asked him to "please put 5 seeds in this hole."

But he thought more like 20 seeds would be better, so we went with that. After all, we have plenty of Buttercup squash seeds and they were free.

I hate that we're still planting this late in June. I get a panicky, sad feeling when I face the possibility of not having a very good gardening year.

My tomatoes and peppers look sick, sad, and pathetic.  I'm gonna have to rig up something to protect them from the not-so-great elements we've all had to endure week after week around here. But 14 tomato plants and 17 peppers plants is just a lot to cover and protect.

What are your favorite tomato/pepper protecting methods?

Our new strawberries seem to be doing okay in their own little raised bed. Jack-Hammer enjoyed finding all the little white blooms, and I managed to stifle my fury when I discovered that half of the plants had their leaves eaten off.

Further inspection of the garden showed that something is also nibbling at my popcorn. I can just barely handle inclement weather, but animals eating at my plants? It makes me seethe.

I've spent a good portion of this planting season trying to resurrect plants from near-death encounters with our puppy, Belle. Trying to heal and protect sad-looking, once-thriving plants is getting a little old, but my determination usually out-weights my frustration.

The weeds are up, too, so walking by the vegetable garden or any one of the flower gardens usually means a quick stop to pull up a few of the intruders, which is fine because it's a great excuse to stop and get in the dirt where time always seems to slow a bit.

And the asparagus. Have I mentioned my asparagus? We're picking by the handfuls, eating by the platefuls, and giving away by the bagfuls.

Linking up again this week to KinderGARDENS.

June 2, 2011

I Can Tell

Summer is here.

The weather may not always indicate it.

And the solstice has not arrived yet.

But it's summer.

I could tell by the amount of stuff I had to carry in from the vehicle at the end of Memorial Day weekend. I could tell by how the kitchen looked after three days of quick breakfasts and making food to take to family picnics.  I could tell by how tired the kids were for days.  I could tell by how tired I was for days.

I could tell by the little gleam in the husband's eyes as he'd flash me a smile while we busily prepped for the next event. I could tell by all the homemade popsicle stains on the kids' clothes.

I can tell by two little blond heads getting blonder. I can tell by how they sleep at night.

I can tell by the lake back-pack I keep stocked now sitting in its ready-to-go spot.

I hope we enjoyed the quiet of winter, because summer is here.  Beautiful, busy, messy, and sticky.