Friday, August 31, 2012

homeschooling on the brain

You know you've got homeschooling on the brain when... head to the garage for something and find yourself in the study, staring at homeschooling books. church on Sunday, every single song seems to be about homeschooling.  (surrender, trust, obedience...)

...the school books for 2012-13 are in the mail, and you can hardly wait 'til they get here.'re pinning better ways to organize all the homeschool materials.

...the day your kids leave to go camping with their grandparents, you make sure they do Bible, math, character development, and Roman history. check the "school stuff" fund on a regular basis. are thrilled to be participating in Monday school again this autumn.'re planning to grill fellow homeschool mamas on how they do it.'re super-pscyhed that there's a second T-square coming with the school books.

...your blog has more posts on homeschooling this week than parenting and food combined. ;) are bound and determined: this year it will be different.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

self evident

When you forget to switch the cold weather couch pillows...

to the warm weather couch pillows,

and don't even realize it until the end of August, it's a sure sign you've had a busy summer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

homeschooling: meet me there

I've made no secret on this blog of the fact that homeschooling is not easy for me.  From the beginning I have tried to be honest about that - even as it chips away at my pride a little.  It's an ongoing struggle (challenge) for me, but I am blessed to be able to do it.  I am thankful for the freedom to do it.  I am incredibly grateful that my husband supports me in it the way that he does.  I don't mean to grumble or complain, and I hope I don't come off as pathetic and whiny.  I'm just trying to be real.

Schooling my children at home is something I believe God has asked me to do.  And so, though it's by far the harder road for me,  I am going to do it.   The idea of being out of His will is not worth it to me.  So I'm pressing on.

But here's the thing: I need to be on my knees.  I've recently been convicted (from several different sources, as it happens) that I may have been trying to do this under my own steam.  I'll ask for prayer now and again, but am I praying about it much?  Honestly, no.  That's embarrassing to admit, but there you go.  The sad truth.  No wonder it's such a struggle for me.

I don't mean to suggest that all this will be easy-as-pie if I pray about it.  I'm sure we'll have ups and downs,d ays when I start listing other options.

Still, in a way this feels like a turning point.  I've been brought to a place where I am convinced, at last, that I must plead with the Lord about this before I even leave my bedroom in the morning.  I must ask for help, I must commit it all to Him.  Because I finally know that unless I do that, I simply don't stand a chance.

How I long to enjoy this path where God has placed me.  How I want to see my children thrive.  I don't want us to merely survive a day or term or year...I want us to grow.  To grow in wisdom, in knowledge, in relationship, in our walk with Jesus, in our love for one another.  I so hope this coming year can be one we can look back on and say "Yeah, that was good stuff.  It was fun."  Wouldn't that be something?

But even if it is always a hard thing, even when the difficult days outweigh the fun ones, I will obey.  And I will commit it to Him; I don't want all this to be in vain.

So...I'm going to call on his name.  To remember that He has a plan for all this, and to know that he will be faithful to complete what he's begun.  I'm going to sing "Trust and Obey" to myself, and to trust that through the ups and downs, the times of triumph and the times of self-doubt...Jesus will meet me there.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
                                                                             Psalm 127:1                                  


Monday, August 27, 2012

seasonal food: beets

When I was a kid, I would not eat beets.

I know, big shocker.  There's a lot of stuff I wouldn't eat as a child.  And there's a story in family lore of how a daycare provider tried to make my brother eat beets, and how traumatic the whole thing was.  Clearly, beets were not something a sane person chose to eat.

But over the past few years, largely due to the CSA program, I have absolutely fallen in love with beets.  My favorite way to prepare them is to roast them.  I cook them til they're nice and tender, peel them (marveling at the gorgeous hue), and dice them.  Then I toss them with a little extra virgin olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, adding a sprinkle or two of salt.  Perfection!  My daughter adores them this way. 

Fermented Beets

Another way we use beets around here is to pickle them.  I use the lacto-fermentation process - it's so easy! The end result is a crisp, flavorful beet: great on salads or in wraps.  I really enjoy the addition of a little garlic too, it adds such a nice zip to the pickled beets.

Pink Coleslaw

When I first learned about Pink Coleslaw, I was intrigued.  And it's the easiest thing ever to "pink" up the recipe!  Just grate a raw beet into the mix and stir it up.  The recipe called for two beets, but I only used one (I got lazy), and the result was still very pink.  It tastes like normal coleslaw to me (though I love that the dressing is sweetened with honey), but you get the health benefits of beets as well as that stunning color.

And what are the health benefits? According to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, beets are a wonderful source of vitamins and nutrients: "calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, as well as carotene, B complex and vitamin C."   They can be eaten cooked, raw, or fermented.  They also help to detoxify.

My next quest is trying and making beet kvass.  Talk about packing a punch!  And to think, a few years ago I never even would have considered it, not for anything.  My, how time can change things.


p.s.  I should probably tell you that beets can influence the color of your urine, especially if you eat more than one serving.  So if you g out and enjoy them, don't be alarmed!  You are not dying.  It's simply part of the "beet experience."

Friday, August 24, 2012

7 reasons I love my CSA

This growing season marks the fourth year my family has participated in a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  It's been an incredible experience, and I am so glad we decided to try it out.   In a nutshell, when you are part of a CSA program, you commit to purchase produce through a local farmer throughout the growing season.  Ours generally runs from July through October.  Here are a few reasons why I love doing this.

1)  It pushes me outside my comfort zone.  Before a few years ago, I had never purchased an eggplant, let alone tasted one.  And kale?  Forget about it.  Although this picky eater had begun to try new things by the time we discovered CSAs, I still tended to buy the same kinds of vegetables over and over.  Getting a basket of season veg every week (these days it's positively overflowing!) has encouraged me to try new things on a regular basis.

2)  My kids get to learn about where their food originates.  I love that my children get the farm-food connection.  They do not believe that edibles originate in the grocery store.  When they're exposed to rural areas, to see fields and gardens, they can appreciate the effort which goes into the food on their table.  Real food at that.

3)  Choices galore.  As I've mentioned before, we have some picky eaters in our family.  (Yes, I deserve that.)  When my kitchen is overflowing with produce, I love serving at least two or three vegetable "dishes" at dinner every night - as well as offering some at other meals as well.  Last night last leftovers night, and between the re-warmed items and a few new items I put out, we had a record seven veg items to chose from!  Chard sauteed with onions in plenty of butter, steamed cauliflower, roasted beets with balsamic vinegar, Parmesan-roasted green beans, kale chips, cucumber slices, and pink coleslaw.  If a member of my family didn't walk away from that meal with a full stomach, it certainly wasn't from a lack of choices.

4)  Extra to "put by."  I'm still fairly new to this concept, but I sure am working on it.  This week I blanched and froze two big bags of green beans.  Last year I popped batch after batch of Roasted Summer Tomatoes into my freezer, and we enjoyed them all through the cold months.  I don't can, but fermenting summer produce in mason jars is a  fabulous way to preserve summer produce!

5)  They're just such nice people.  This may be a lame reason, but it's certainly a nice perk.  The pleasant lady who presents our basket every week, she was one of the only people who didn't bat an eyelash last summer when we told her we were expecting our 5th child.  Interacting with lovely folks may not have much to do with seasonal food, but it sure is nice.

6)  Supporting local farmers.  It's no secret that I love to shop local.  In supporting my area's economy, I am helping the people that I interact with as well as limiting the distance "from farm to table."

7)  Fresh, nutritious food!  Last but not least, I love the wonderfully fresh foods the CSA program gives us.  Delicious and crisp, tender and packed with flavor, this is seriously good stuff.  The lettuce is unbelievable, the cucumbers are divine, and the sweet corn is out of this world.  Superb quality, stellar flavor, it's a definite win-win situation if you ask me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

homeschooling: a little lost

Lately when I think I about homeschooling, I've been feeling a little lost.  I feel that something needs to change, but it's difficult to say just what.  Is it the schedule?  The curriculum?  Our attitudes?  Possibly all of the above?

I spent a fair amount of last week in tears.  What to do?  Keep up the curriculum we have been doing?       Make the frightening move of choosing something new?  Three and a half years into this journey, the places where we are weak haunted me. Was it a matter of a child's individual pace?  Or was I failing my son?

For a while my husband and I discussed trying some kind of web academy.  There was a moment when we had pretty much decided to up pursue it for a year - and see.  I won't lie; it sounded heavenly to me.  But with a little more time and thought, it has become apparent that this is not where our path lies.

After much agonizing, we decided to make a bit of a change.  I will still be using the Charlotte Mason method, but with a different curriculum: one which offers me, as the teacher, a bit more guidance and structure.  Today I took the plunge and made my first step in this direction...I ordered a teacher's guide.

I feel trembly, but more secure in my footing.  God has not released me from this thing, and I have no way of knowing if He ever will.  So I'll keep on...stepping out in faith.  Trusting that He will walk through it with us, praying that He will give me wisdom - and pick up the pieces when I do fail.

Pray for me in this.  Teaching does not come easy to me, not even with the kids I love dearest in the world.  Fitting in different learning styles, different paces and ages...I am still working it out as I go.

Scary?  Yes.  But it will be, I have to believe, so worth it in the end.

So...obedience.  That's my plan.  Obedience, and a lot of prayer.

Friday, August 17, 2012

crying fowl

Tuesday was a kind of crazy day.

It's always a little tricky getting my brood off to women's Bible study, though it's easier now than it used to be.  After we finish with that we climb back into our Suburban and drive south.  Every Tuesday we head out to a farm where we buy raw milk.  I often stop at a certain house to get farm fresh eggs, and that's what I needed to do on this day.

It is a beautiful drive, especially when the sun is shining.  We get to see various animals: horse, cows, goats, pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, and sometimes even ostrich.  We often see deer, especially if it's a cool morning.  I believe it's good for my kids to see where their food comes from.   They know our milk farmers, and they know Mr. E., where we often stop to get eggs.  (There's also a lovely lady who brings eggs to my house - and I much prefer to buy from her - but oftentimes I supplement with eggs from Mr. E.  We eat a lot of eggs at my house.)

Anyway, we get to see a lot.  And although I sometimes wish we didn't make the trip every week, there's something about it that's good for my rural-born soul.  Besides: the milk is so, so worth it, and the eggs are fantastic.

As I mentioned, we see a lot of animals.  But before this week, I had never come face to face with a goose.  Or, several geese.  I suppose that'd be a gaggle?

Here's what happened:  I put the truck in park and made my way up to Mr. E.'s porch.  He always has a lot of animals around.  Chickens, of course, and lately there have been turkeys too - my kids find these very amusing.  He has cats and several very loud dogs.  In fact, before we learned his name, the boys and I used to refer to Mr. E. as "the man with the angry dogs."  My feelings aren't hurt by their incessant barking; I know they're only doing their job.  Nonetheless, I'm very glad they're always behind a fence.

Mr. E. is a sweet, genial older man.  He reminds me terrifically of Jed Clampett.  We've had several interesting conversations about food sourcing, and I believe we see eye to eye on many things.  I like Mr. E. very much, and I've been buying eggs from him for several years now.

But I wish I had known about his geese.

Barks ringing in my ears, I got three dozen eggs from the outside refrigerator, left some empty cartons and my payment.  Mr. E. poked his head out to holler at the dogs, as he often does.  As usual, they didn't quiet down a bit.  I am clearly a dangerous intruder as far as their canine brains are concerned.

Mr. E. went back inside and I descended the porch steps.  As I traipsed down the dirt path, I slowly became conscious of another sound, nearly lost in the cacophony of doggy noise.  Honking.  Definitely honking.  I glanced over my shoulder and was mildly alarmed at what I saw.  Geese.  A bundle of geese, approaching

I tend to be a little freaked out about birds.  And these were big birds, their beady eyes intent on me, mere feet away.  They were following me.  They were chasing me.

My mild alarm ramped up a bit and I took to flight.  Egg cartons clutched under my arm, I shrieked and ran.  As I rounded the front of the truck, seeing that I had put distance between myself and my pursuers, I began to giggle.  It was probably a tad hysterical.  Just as I opened the driver's side door, Mr. E. called from his window, "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about that.  They'll sneak up on you..."

It's possible I responded to his words, but I couldn't really tell you.  All I know if that I flung myself into that truck as fast as I could, praying I hadn't crushed any eggs in the process.  (I hadn't.)   As I buckled my seatbelt  I heard a wry voice from the back seat.  "Did you get chased by some geese, Mama?"

Yes, son.  I sure did.

Later that evening I did a little digging.  Evidently shrieking and running was not the way to go.  And so as a service to you, I'd like to share the proper way to handle yourself if you ever find yourself threatened by a goose.  Or geese.  These tips are taken from the article "How to Stop a Goose Attack" from

Stop a Goose Attack
 -Pay attention to the actions of the male goose when you enter his territory. If he sounds a warning, that is your signal to leave the area. 
-Show no fear. Geese are particularly attuned to body language and a show of fear may increase the intensity of the attack. 
-Maintain eye contact. Geese have excellent vision and interpret loss of eye contact as an act of fear. 
-Stay calm. Don't yell or try to hit the male goose. The female may join the attack and then you will be in real trouble. 
  • -Keep your body facing directly toward the goose. Never turn your back on an attacking goose.
  • -Walk slowly backwards if the goose hisses at you or spreads its wings. Use your peripheral vision to avoid tripping over obstacles.
    -Continue facing the goose and back slowly away at a 90-degree angle from the goose if he flies up at your face. 
    -Make your escape and exit the area through a gate if possible. Geese rarely fly over a fence.

  • There you have it; you are now officially better informed than I was.  And if I again face birds which are, at the least, curious and at the worst, preparing to tear my eyes out, I'll know a little better what to do.
  • Hold my head high, stare those birds down, and desperately hope that, for just a minute really, I can transform into The Flash.

  • Thursday, August 16, 2012

    pickle me too

    fermenting dilly beans

    Coming soon: how fermenting foods at home is easy, traditional, and a hugely beneficial to one's health!

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    you might be a blogger if...

    Bloggers can have some strange habits.  Bizarre, really, to the unaccustomed.  But the astute observer will note certain characteristics in a true blogger.  To help clarify things, here's a little list.

    You might be a blogger if...

    ...after your kids say something hilarious, you race to write it down before you forget exactly how it went. take random photos of scenes around the house, just in case you might want to use it later. have tons of random photos, which probably confuse your husband.  "Honey, why is there a picture of the ______ on the computer?" once took a photo of a certain kind of kombucha while standing in a store, just to have it in your arsenal of pics. get excited about actually being ready before the kids are in the morning, because you positively relish even ten minutes to write while the house is still quiet.'s not unusual to forfeit your precious exercise time if you find the inspiration to write. notice that a post is waaaaaaaay more likely to be read if you post it on Facebook. often photograph kitchen exploits. find yourself muttering through a (mental) post outline as you clean up from lunch.'ve told your kids, "Hey guys, could you keep it down?  Kinda trying to write in here..."

    Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    growing a kombucha SCOBY: what to buy

    When I wrote this post, I mentioned that one way to acquire a SCOBY is to grow one yourself at home.  Here are instructions on how to do so.  But I wanted to share a photo of the kind you want to use.

    Raw. Unflavored. Organic kombucha.  Do not use pasteurized kombucha.  It's got to be a living SCOBY to brew kombucha.

    I just thought you might want to know.

    Sunday, August 12, 2012

    flowers in the water

    It was five years ago this week.

     My husband and I dropped off our two young boys at a friend's house.  Quietly we got back in our vehicle and drove away.  After making a short stop, we headed toward our destination.  Parked.  Our feet trudged over pavement, a dirt trail lined by tall grasses, and finally sand.

    It had been nearly seven months since our loss.  Since our little one had slipped away in the night.  The memory was fresh, as were the questions.  Why?  Why like that? When we had so much love to give?  I'd wrestled with God and His will as never before.   I had wept, prayed, searched the Scriptures, shared about my experience with other women.  I hadn't found any answers - but I had something that tasted like peace.

    Hand in hand, we walked along the water.  It was crowded that day - it was the weekend, after all.  There were voices, people laughing, talking, splashing.  We walked on, seeking what privacy we could find.  After a while we settled on a spot by a bend in the river.

    We did not think to bring a camera, but in my mind's eye I can see the sunshine, warm and bright that afternoon.  I can see the glimmer of the water, I can almost hear a slight breeze rustling the grass.

    Arms around each other's waists, we stood.  Quiet in our thoughts.  Everything we'd needed to say to one another had already been said, several times over.

    We had come to say goodbye.  To honor the day when we'd been expecting...not an arrival, but the mysterious countdown to begin.  The questions:  "How much longer?"  "How are you feeling?"  "Are you all ready?"  The wondering and waiting, the watching and hoping.

    August, we had thought.  In August we would have a new little baby.

    But it was not to be.

    Instead, heaven had gained a precious new soul, a sweet one to sing with the angels, hang with the Apostles, sit at Jesus' feet.  We were sure, and yet we ached.  We ached for the love we'd lost - at least for this life. For the little love who had flown away.

    We stood by the river, holding each other.  I am sure we prayed.  And then gently, reverently, we placed a small bouquet of flowers in the water.  An assortment of beauty and color.  Delicate petals, each stalk with a cell structure crafted by the One whose ways are higher.

    We held each other as we watched them float away.  Tears slipped down my cheeks as I whispered goodbye.

    And trembling a little, we sang.

    How lovely is Your dwelling place O'Lord Almighty
    My soul longs and even faints for You
    For here my heart is satisfied within Your presence
    I sing beneath the shadow of Your wings
    Better is one day in Your courts
    Better is one day in Your house
    Better is one day in Your courts
    Than thousands elsewhere
    One thing I ask and I would seek to see Your beauty
    To find You in the place Your glory dwells 
    One thing I ask and I would seek to see Your beauty
    To find You in the place Your glory dwells
    My heart and flesh cry out for You the living God
    Your spirits water to my soul
    I've tasted and I've seen come once again to me
    I will draw near to You, I will draw near to You
    Better is one day in Your courts
    Better is one day in Your house
    Better is one day in Your courts
    Than thousands elsewhere

    We knew, and in our gladness we gave thanks.

    "Blessed are those who mourn,
        for they will be comforted."
    (Jesus, Matthew 5:4)

    Saturday, August 11, 2012

    The Bite of Oregon

    Yesterday my family set out to experience the Bite of Oregon.  In case you don't know, it's a weekend-long celebration of Oregon food - a festival.  It benefits the Special Olympics.  We had never been to the Bite before, but we had a great time!  The weather was perfect, which helped too of course.

    Kyle helps saute garlic for a cooking demonstration
    We found kids' activities and presentations.  My favorite birthing center hosted a very comfortable place for mamas to relax and nurse their babies.  Pretty much everyone I saw was in a good mood.

    Oh, and....yeah.  There was really awesome food.

    Chicken, spinach & artichoke crepe

    chocolate-covered fruit kabob
    The kids decorated their own chef hats.

    And there was a fun Food Network-style Iron Chef competition

    Iron Chef Oregon - Round 1

    It was a very worthwhile outing, and I think it's safe to say that we'd all love to go again next year.

    Can I tell you a little secret?  Prior to The Big Trip, I nevereverever would have suggested doing this.  I would've wanted to.  I might have stayed home and felt a little sad that we "couldn't go," but felt convinced that it would be too much work.  Not worth it: too hard.

    I would have been wrong.  Let me say it again, taking that trip was empowering.  On the same level that natural childbirth is empowering.  We can take on challenges, we can step out, be away from home at naptime, and we will figure it out.  The baby will deal.  We'll survive, and we might even be happy that we did it.

    Numerous times on our outing, we heard the words "That's a lot of kids."  And you know what? It is.

    I never thought I would have such a large family, not ever.  But I do.  We do.  God has blessed us in this.  It's a challenge, it's stretching, and it's fun.  It's our family.  And I am proud of my kids - in the house or out of it.

    Friday, August 10, 2012

    quinoa chicken salad

    One of my favorite summer dishes is Quinoa Chicken Salad.  It is probably the most versatile thing I serve to my family: it can be hot or cold, and one can easily change up the meat, vegetables, even the dressing.  It all depends how you like it and what you have on hand.  I doubt I've ever made it precisely the same way twice.  All the same, here is a rough blueprint of what I do when I prepare this "recipe."

    The idea of this dish was inspired primarily by The Nourishing Gourmet's Everyday Italian Rice Salad.  I use the dressing from that recipe, although I'm halving it here in this context.

    1 c. quinoa, uncooked
    2 c. Water
    2 T. raw vinegar or lemon juice
    2 c. water or bone broth
    1 c. cooked chicken, shredded
    2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
    1 c. raw cheddar cheese, cubed
    1/2 c. Peas
    1/2 c. Carrots, shredded
    1/2 c. Green onions, sliced

    Dressing: 1/3 c. Extra virgin olive oil
    2 T. Raw apple cider vinegar
    3/4 t. dried basil
    1/2 T. Dijon mustard
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1/2 t. sea salt
    dash of black pepper

    Make the salad
    The night before, combine the first three ingredients and let rest overnight.  (This helps neutralize the anti-nutrients found in quinoa and other seeds, as well as nuts and whole grains.  For a superb chart on soaking and cooking grains properly, click HERE.)

    The following day, rinse quinoa well and place in a medium pot.  Add 2 c. bone broth or water.  I also add a dash of salt and a dash of extra virgin olive oil at this point.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook 25-30 minutes.  When the quinoa is done cooking, remove from heat but leave covered for 15 additional minutes.  At this time, uncover & fluff with a fork.

    Add mix-ins to the quinoa.  Prepare dressing and pour over the other ingredients, combining well.   Enjoy!

    We love this salad hot, but it really shines as a cold main dish on hot summer nights.  As I said, feel free to play with the meats, vegetables, cheese, etc.  You could even go with an entirely different dressing: the possibilities are endless!

    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    where the grass is greener

    Lately my daughter has been insisting that she has blue eyes.  I tell her "No, sweetheart, your eyes are brown.  Just like mine!  And your brothers', too.  Brown, dark, beautiful brown.  Like chocolate."

    Sometimes she'll be satisfied.  But a few hours later she will start in again.  "My eyes blue! Blue eyes," she says, beaming at the mirror.

    And it pains me a bit.  You see, when I was a little girl, I desperately wanted blonde hair and blue eyes.  I thought my own coloring was boring, but ...oh!  To have shining golden hair, bright blue eyes, to wear a pink ballerina's tutu - these were my dreams as a young girl.

    So many times, I watch my little daughter.  The way she walks, her perfect confidence that she is lovely and adored.  I have a small tiara which sits on my jewelry box.  The other day I let her wear it for the first time.  We ran to the bathroom mirror: she to see how she looked, me because I wanted to witness her reaction.  Her face positively glowed.  I said "Oh Elise, you look beautiful."  Tearing her eyes away from the mirror, she looked at me with an expression of perfect happiness and breathed: "Yes."

    I so want her to keep that.

    I  want her to move with an air of confidence, to trust that what she has been given is just what she should have.  To like - nay, love, the color of her hair.  To fully appreciate the warm depth of her brown eyes.

    And I suspect that much of that depends on me.

    How I perceive my sense of womanhood.  Accentuating my femininity, embracing my body, my face...and yes, my eyes.  It's so very hard for me.  I made peace with my eye color years ago, but accepting other aspects of my appearance is a constant struggle for me.  Yet, I must, for myself as well as for her.

    It isn't easy, mothering a little girl.  It's a joy, make no mistake - but what a responsibility!  I need to chose the way I speak about myself so, so carefully.  But beyond that, I want to learn to love myself better. To be thankful for my strong body, my health.  To thank the Lord for the belly that has carried six babies, the hips that have birthed five.  To accept that He has endowed me with my coloring, that He chose the hue of my hair and the shade of my eyes just for me.

    To believe that I am beautiful in His sight, just as she is so beautiful in mine.

    It isn't easy, mothering a little girl.  But it is a more ways than one.

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    Friday, August 3, 2012

    like mother, like son?

    Sometimes I worry for my boy.

    He's so very much like me, in many of the ways I am uncomfortable with myself.  The quality which has stood out to me lately is how we both tend  to respond to friendships.  We have the inclination, when we find someone with whom we really seem to connect, to form a strong bond to that person.  To count on them, miss them when they're not around, wonder what they'd think of this, that, or the other thing.

    And I suppose that's not necessarily bad...

    But it leaves one so open to being hurt.  Perhaps it's human nature to be forgotten when there is a distance or passage of time.  Or simply to be replaced.  Maybe it's something everyone goes through.  Being burned - forgotten, abandoned - by a friend.  Putting yourself out there, believing you've found something special, then finding that it wasn't so special to them.

    So when I see my son put his heart and soul into a friendship, I find myself trembling a little.  I watch, hoping he won't have to feel the pain of rejection ... not just yet.  I bite my lip against warning him not to "come on too strong," not to "overstay his welcome," not to make himself tiresome.  I stay silent, hoping.  Hoping that the burden I've carried won't become his.  Praying that the ways he reminds me so much of myself won't necessarily mean he'll walk the same road.

    Swallowing the lump in my throat.  Letting go.

    Friendship - real friendship - is a funny thing.  It feels like such a gamble.  You risk so, so much.  But the payoff may make it all worthwhile.  Is it true, it is "better to have loved and lost" than not traveled the path at all?  In spite of everything....

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    of boys and blueberries

    I went out to the yard in the afternoon to check on the blueberries.  There are four bushes against the back fence.  Like four siblings, they are alike and yet distinct.  The bush on the far west is the one I always seem to approach first.  It is full and flourishing, its branches heavy with berries.  Many were ripe and blue, ready to be folded into pancake batter, blended into smoothies, or simply popped into watering mouths.

    At last I stepped away from the westward bush.  I moved down the short row, peering and choosing.  When I got to the bush on the east end, I stopped short.  It is smaller than its sisters.  This bush is mostly leaves - some berries here and there, but considerably fewer than the other bushes.

    This may be silly, but I spoke to it.  "Well there.  You're not doing so well, are you...?  Hmm."

    But I realized that the only reason I made such a judgment was the obvious contrast of this last bush to the others. The others were heavy with berries in various states of ripeness.  This one, the smaller one, had berries.  It was healthy, green, producing.  It was producing fruit.  Still, when compared with the others before it - well, I guess you could say it wasn't growing at the same rate.

    And I thought about my boys.

    So similar, yet distinct.  Each with his own strengths and weaknesses.  Each individual, unique.  Growing, changing - but not always at the same pace.  It is hard not to compare at times.  The inclination is natural and strong, and yet...none of my boys is the standard for any of the others.

    The God who created them knows them inside and out.  He knows the end from the beginning.  He knows, far better than I, strengths, weaknesses, and how both virtues and vices might be used to bring Him glory.  I must encourage each man-child (and my daughter too) to fulfill his own unique purpose, on his own unique timeline - according to the blueprint of the One who designed every shred of DNA and knows every hair on their heads.

    I cannot ask them to fit the same mold, and I cannot hold any one up as the example to follow.

    There is only One.

    So I'll water, nurture...shine light in dark places.  I'll point to the Way and do a little weeding here and there.  But the ending?  I'll leave that to the master gardener, who understands this process far better than I do.

    I'm so very glad I can leave it in His hands.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    the would-be gardener

    my garden in July 2011
    I want to be a gardener.

    I've sort of fallen in love with the aesthetics of it.  The sunlight, the nourished roots digging deep into that soil.  The water droplets clinging to green leaves.  I love the idea of growing something worth having - all beginning with a mere seed.

    I'm not very good at it, though.

    This year marks our second attempt at a garden at this home.  Last year was terribly hit and miss, and this year I vowed to do better.  I planned with great care and enthusiasm.  I painstakingly decided what should go in full sun, part sun, etc.  I bought organic seeds and starts.

    But I planted too soon.

    During a sunny week in the beginning of May I let my enthusiasm get the best of me.  And then, it got cold and rainy.  It was too cold, too wet.  I turned out to be a fair-weather gardener.  Almost none of my seeds came up.  My starts are surviving at the moment, but oh...the cucumbers and the basil I'd so hoped to be harvesting by now have not grown at all.

    We had snap peas for a while.  I have some lettuce up at last, though it's been a bit nibbled.  Happily, the blueberry bushes (which I don't really count as being in the garden, they're so effortless) are still producing beautifully.  And my darling tomato plants are about to take off, much to my delight.  I don't really think there's such a thing as too many tomatoes.  And if I should find myself with such a thing, I shall make many, many batches of Roasted Summer Tomatoes.  There's nothing like the taste of summertime "in the bleak midwinter."

    But that's all.  That's it.

    No oodles of pickling cucumbers.  No cucumbers at all, in fact.  And certainly no basil.  Sadness.

    I'm sure there are still things I can plant, even at the beginning of August - but I'm unsure of myself and my region.  I don't trust the weather; I don't trust my meager knowledge of gardening.  As I told my oldest son just yesterday, I'm still figuring this stuff out.

    But I'm determined to get there.  One day I shall have a flourishing garden.  I shall have an abundance of produce which I can offer to my neighbors.  I shall have this, that, and the other thing.  I desperately want to figure this out: to learn how to use the earth - sun - water - feed my family.

    our snap peas, May 2012
    So I will keep trying.  Perhaps failing, but hopefully getting a little better, wiser, more experienced each time around.  Because honestly, I do.  I can't help it -

    I want to be a gardener.