Friday, October 29, 2010

you'll get over it

As I overheard 5-year-old Kyle say to his older brother, "Hey, we should check on Furball!" I cringed. It was our very first caterpillar, and...well, he didn't make it. I'd read that when a caterpillar curls up and lies still for a day or so, one shouldn't worry...he's likely just gearing up for that cocoon. Sadly, that wasn't the case with Furball. I'd followed given him green plants, a damp sponge, a stick on which to climb, air circulation, and a familiar temperature. But somehow it wasn't enough. I guess his culinary tastes were a little more advanced than what I offered him.

It's a good thing we don't have a puppy.

And so, several weeks had passed since our dear Furball had gone to his reward (or, you know, whatever). Yet I hadn't found -or made- the time to tell my children. I vacillated between thinking "Oh, he's just a caterpillar, maybe they'll forget," and "He's the first 'creature' we've ever adopted, and they were excited about it!" ...and somehow, I just never told them. I know. I know. I'm such a bad mommy. When it comes to a real pet, I promise I won't keep its demise a secret. But in the case of the caterpillar, I suppose it was just a cross between dread and forgetfulness.

Today, though, he was remembered, and I knew without a doubt that I needed to 'fess up. They took the news reasonably well. Kyle blinked, gave a grin and a shrug, and said "Maybe we should've gotten a caterpillar kit after all." Thanks, kid. Let's chalk it up to my refusal to buy official supplies. That makes me feel a lot better...

...Ah, but Benjamin. Sweet, sensitive Benjamin. He got the jar, peered around until he found the pitiful little thing, and set it down. He came and stood by me, head bowed, eyes downcast. I gave him a hug. "I'm really sorry I didn't tell you before this, buddy. I just didn't know how to say it. Will you forgive me?" We shared a hug, and Kyle and I discussed more about how Furball's dietary needs exceeded what I'd give him. Ben was still looking sober, standing quietly by my side. Then -

"Mom?" he said. (Where oh where did Mama go? I miss it tremendously.) "I have something that I want to say to you."

Eyes locked on his, I assured my boy that I was all ears. I took a deep breath. Did he feel betrayed? Treated like a baby? Would he ever be able trust me again?

"Well," he began again, "I just wanted to say know those Roman numerals I've been writing?"

"Sure, honey. What about them?"

"I think it would good if I could learn them on a Nintendo DS."

Yeah, I think he'll get over the caterpillar.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

beauty in the here & now

In relation to this post, I wanted to take a moment to count and appreciate the beautiful blessings that I enjoy in the present. A few lovely moments to share from this week...

...hearing my son tell his little brother "Good job, Owen!" after he'd been working hard on a puzzle.

...laughing with Ben over our math lesson the other day.

...listening to my child recounting our Bible stories with incredible detail.

...playing "Drown Your Cows" with Kyle on the milk run.

...listening to my daughter's happy crowing as she joins us at the dinner table.

...watching my son take second & third helpings of vegetables.

...seeing my baby grinning madly at her big brothers.

...hearing "These potatoes rock!" at dinnertime.

...seeing my kid give $.23 (what he had in his wallet) for Pastor Appreciation month after he heard about it in church.

...being treated to a lavish display of hugs one night by my sweet boys.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

fall favorites

We've been relishing the bounty of fall in our house. Over the weekend, Jeff and I made an apple pie (I really enjoy it when we get a chance to work in the kitchen together!), and it's been very popular. I adore pears, apples, and other harvest goodies.

A dish that our family as really fallen for this season is squash fries. We've tried two varieties, both from The Nourishing Gourmet: Roasted Delicata Squash Slices and Butternut Squash Fries. Roasting in the oven, they smell so wonderful! They've been a big hit, and I'm so glad I decided to try them. I've always had a hard time with squash (the only exception was spaghetti squash, drowning in pasta sauce and Parmesan cheese), but these are delightful!

Of course, one of the most comforting things that the cool weather has brought into my kitchen is soup. I adore soup - warm, cozy, often easy to prepare. Our current favorites are Sally Fallon's Red Meat Chili (found in "Nourishing Traditions") and Chicken Rice Soup.

And what would autumn be without pumpkin goods? I could hardly wait to make my Spiced Pumpkin Bread. Sweet, with just enough spices to warm it up, it's delicious as a snack or dessert. I love how soft it is, with just a little crunch on top. Scrumptious!

But without a doubt, the most popular item I've made this fall is this Old-Fashioned Caramel Corn from Kimi at The Nourishing Gourmet. I've made it twice now, and let me tell you, it is utterly addicting. Still, such a nice treat, and it feels so right for the crisp, cool weather. Crunchy, sweet, buttery...I'll stop now; my mouth is watering...

Ah autumn. I love it so. And because I do, I'm going to close with a quote I found on Kristin's blog - because I find it all so delicious.

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking successive autumns. ~George Eliot

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

almost done

One. More. Game.

Monday, October 25, 2010

spring is coming

Last week I did some planting. I'd been putting off putting my bulbs in, but I knew my time was limited - if I wanted to get them in before the rain really began, that is. So one afternoon, the clock ticking loudly in my ears, I used a small window of time to plant some promises for springtime.

Winter around here is long. At least, it feels that way to me. After autumn's brilliant beginning, the crisp, cool beauty of an Oregon starts to rain. And then, it rains and rains and rains. It pretty much rains until April or May, with a few glad days of sunshine here and there. But mostly, it rains.

After nearly ten years of living in the Pacific Northwest, I've acclimated. Well...I've sort of acclimated. Possibly, I'm just resigned.

Whatever the case, I decided to plant something to remind me of the promise of spring. Something to encourage me after months of drizzly days. New growth...dashes of color...fragrance. Assurance that, no matter how gray the skies may appear, spring is coming.

I don't know where you are today. Maybe hurting. Maybe grieving. Maybe you're feeling the burden of the daily grind, wondering if what you're doing matters. Believe me, I've been there. Some days I'm still there. In the midst of wiping bottoms and scrubbing pots, of being positive when my kids protest doing their schoolwork, of feeling the seeming futility of chores that are never really finished. What does it matter, I wonder?

When my 5-year-old son heard about the bulbs I'd planted, he went to check it out. Surveying the level surface of soil and bark chips, he was puzzled. "I don't see anything," he frowned. There were no brave shoots, no new life, not a single petal. He couldn't see any change. What difference had my minutes with the trowel made?

And I told him the same thing that I tell myself, that I'm telling you.

"Just wait; you'll see. Even if you don't see any difference right now... In time, it's going to be beautiful."

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ~Galatians 6:9

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm from...

(Disclaimer: I saw this on another blog and thought it sounded fun. Hopefully it will be!)

I'm from chasing lightning bugs. Putting them in jars with holes poked in the lids. Running barefoot in the grass on summer nights until it was time to come inside and go to bed.

I'm from being a big sister to one brother. Hamming it up on our one tape of home videos. Playing "Big X, Little X." Writing words with our fingers on each other's backs. "Drown Your Cows." Lots of road trips. "Mom, he's on my side!" Playing school using upside-down laundry baskets as desks.

I'm from reading a novel while we drove through the Rocky Mountains. Book-It at Pizza Hut. Book collections. Library cards.

I'm from corn country. Tornado land. Sunflowers dotting country roads in August and September, as far as the eye can see. Small towns. Loretta Lynn. Anne Murray. Carole King. Crushing on my great-aunt's neighbor's nephew at 5 years old. Purple and white VS red and blue.

I'm from missing my mom when I was at school. Stomach aches. Trying not to imagine the worst happening to my parents when they left us with the occasional babysitter. Being convinced that the Tabby Cat poster on my wall turned into a wolf at dusk. Watching car headlights shine through my bedroom window at night and fighting the fear that there were robbers with flashlights on the ground below.

I'm from special candy at Christmas. Yum-Yums. Peanut Brittle.

I'm from Country Cheese Potatoes.

I'm from playing MASH in order to peek into my future. House. Husband. Two kids. Purple.

I'm from a Mennonite and a (former) Christian Scientist. A Midwestern girl and a West coast boy. Six week-acquaintance before becoming engaged. Romantics. Commitment.

I'm from writing diaries. Dating my pastor's son. Going to senior prom as a freshman. Going out with an older boy from a different school in a bigger town. Loving his tender heart. Marrying him at age 20.

I'm from sunrise services on Easter morning. Church potlucks. Cantatas. Candlelight services on Christmas Eve. Hymns.

I'm from the Mennonite church. The Presbyterian Church. The Community Church. The Christian Church. Getting sprinkled at 14 and immersed at 24.

I'm from Amy Grant. Sandi Patti. Michael W. Smith. First Call. Steven Curtis Chapman. Rich Mullins.

I'm from many things. Moving toward one eternal future.

Friday, October 15, 2010

a mother never forgets

Tonight I will be lighting a candle to remember my sweet Riley. I thank God for this little one's time in my life, however brief.

Every year, October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. May we never forget the precious weight of each and every soul.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

the girl called beautiful

Do you call your daughter (or daughters) beautiful? I find myself doing it a lot with my sweet little Elise. Lately, I've been thinking on the wisdom - or not - of those kinds of compliments. Are they fine in moderation? Do they take a girl's focus away from the kind of beauty God values? Or is it a healthy boost (especially in our society) for a girl's self-image, to be called such things?

And, she is beautiful. I mean, really. I could (possibly) be a tad biased, but I think even the most uninterested observer would admit that she is a stunner. I know: all babies are gorgeous. But this little one is mine. know. In the sense that God has lent her to me for a season.

As much as any of my children belong to me, she's mine...and she takes my breath away.

But how often can I tell her? Is it even wise to tell her? If I call her "Beautiful" every morning when she wakes up, will she end up thinking that's her most valuable characteristic? Or, is a balance what's important: noticing her strengths, her kindness, her skills, as well as commenting when she looks especially lovely?

I don't remember hearing those "appearance" kinds of compliments as a child. Maybe they were there, maybe not. But for whatever reason, I don't have many memories of that kind of thing. And, well...maybe it would have been a good thing, you know?

You may wonder when I'll be getting to my point, but the truth is, I don't have one. I am just mulling it over, trying to figure out what's best.

And I wonder... What do you think about this subject? Do you tell your daughter that she's beautiful?

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.
-1 Peter 3:3-4

Thursday, October 7, 2010

another dream fulfilled!

Since long before we moved, I've been wishing for a loveseat to place by the fireplace. A place to sit, cuddle, read, and talk. I've had a certain vision in my head for these many months, and last weekend, my dream was fulfilled.

Thank you, Craigslist!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

off and running

Today we bid welcome to the new school year! Yep, we began our first trimester this morning - doing second grade, kindergarten, and a handful of toddler activities.

I started the day with great ambitions, and amazingly enough we sat down to breakfast at 8:00 AM! This is something I would love to achieve regularly, but rarely do. It felt like such a triumph to make it work on this day of fresh starts.

I've been wanting to begin a tradition or two to commemorate the new school year. As I kid I have memories of stocking up on school supplies, new clothes, maybe a new coat or pair of shoes. We haven't done that lately because...we don't have to. We get new things as needed, but not so much in connection to school.

Still, I didn't want my kids to feel that they were missing out. (Or maybe I was the one afraid of missing out?) At any rate, I wanted to mark the day in some way. Unsurprisingly, my thoughts turned to food, and so...I guess we have our new tradition:

Apple cider and homemade donuts.

They were really good (my second attempt ever) and I'm pleased to report that no one was burned by hot oil or pans. Against all odds, I didn't even set off any smoke alarms.

So, we were off to a good start - generally following the rough schedule I'd worked out, cheerful - and I was gathering my older boys and had just gotten out the first book, when it came to my attention that there was a distinct odor coming from a particular little bottom.

Yeah, should've scheduled for that.

Still, we made it through. Today we covered Old Testament, history (we're studying ancient Greece this year), reading, P.E. (we even had time for recess!), geography, and math. I'm trying to stay more in line with Charlotte Mason's concept of short lessons, and so far it's working nicely.

It wasn't perfect. Apart from that first stinky hiccup, we had some whining, tears, arguing, pencil flinging, clowning, clambering, and so forth. No, it wasn't perfect - not by a long shot!

But it was a start.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

a few simple rules

There are times when I wish I could just get my boys to remember a few simple rules. Things they know about, but when push comes to shove, the rules go flying out the figurative window. Things like...

1) Flush the toilet.

2) Turn off the light when you leave a room.

3) Don't torment your brothers by chasing them with the fake blister you made in Grossology class at the homeschool co-op.

You know, stuff like that.

There are times when I get so frustrated, thinking that these things are so basic, so simple. Why do my kids have such a hard time remembering them? I'm not asking them to perform brain surgery. I'm asking them to follow a few steps that show consideration of others, not to mention keeping our home a pleasant place in which to be.

I know, they're young. But still. Flushing the toilet?

So, I was thinking about this stuff the other day. Why can't they just remember? I wondered. And sometimes they do. But often, they don't, and I'm left wondering if they hear me at all.

But in the midst of this, God spoke to my heart. And it went something like this: His rules are pretty simple, too. In fact, there are really only two of them. People think there are a lot more, but really, it boils down to two.

1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.
2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

If I'm loving my Lord with my whole heart, soul, and mind, I want to obey Him. I want to please Him. Everything else falls into place, including the second most important commandment: to love others as we love ourselves.

So the next time I discover something unappealing in one of our toilets, I'm going to try to remember these things. God's rules are infinitely more important than the ones in my little household. Following His commands can make a lasting impact on the people around us...on the world.

And He's only got two.

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." ~Matthew 22:36-40