Long awaited kittens!

For quite a while we weren’t sure if our beloved cat Basil was expecting, but a few weeks ago we were finally certain as we laid on the kitchen floor and watched tiny movement in her huge belly.  It was precious.  She is one exceptionally sweet cat and being a mama has only made that more so.

At one point last week there were butterflies mating on the kitchen counter, Basil and her new kittens, two friendly inch wide tiny crabs snacking on leftover broiled Mahi in a bucket on the front porch, our dog Maggie, a brown and green tree frog I caught for Caleb, ten happy chickens in their pen in the backyard….4 frolicking children and one little bean of a baby growing in my belly.  I turned to Christopher at dinner and said, “Wow, there’s a whole lotta life going on here!”…he just laughed.

We’re home…

…from 5 days of camping in 100+ degree heat with 4 littles, one pregnant mama and one heat-loving dad in one teensy camping cabin.  It was priceless and we’re all a bit bummed to be back at home.  For some reason, the dirty, rustic, camp living suited us quite well.  I’m pretty sure it was the treat of having Daddy around non-stop for 5 whole DAYS.  We soaked up every minute and now he’s back to work this morning and I’m feeling the big post-vacation letdown.

I didn’t even bring my camera so no pictures to share – it was actually kind of nice to have no computer, phones, TV or any electronic anything for a while.  Life felt so calm and peaceful.

I’ll be back in the blogging mode soon but for today you can read my guest post on making time for intimacy-even during the baby years- over at Adding Zest if you’d like!

A treasure of a day

Throughout my childhood my grandparents lived every summer in a darling beachfront cottage on a saltwater bay near the Canadian border.  It is the place I remember them being happy.  It was the home of a multitude of treasured memories made with my two sisters and my parents.  I could tell dozens of stories that wouldn’t mean anything to you but they mean everything to me.  It was a precious place.

My grandpa died when I was 5 months pregnant with my first child.  My grandma joined him two years later.  They’d lived miles from our home all my life.  But their happy place was the summer one.  So they were buried there.  Today, on our way to a birthday party at that same beach, we stopped by the tiny cemetery to lay flowers from my garden.   This was the first time I’ve felt like I could go back to the beach.  And even now, as soon as I stepped out of the car and smelled the water, my eyes welled up.

#119 – a softly whispered “I miss you” and the bittersweetness of remembering

#120 – the anticipation of a new life

#121 – grieving that life passed will never meet our #5

#122 – friends…worth 2 hours drive in the car anyday

#123 – smiles through tears….the sweetness of sharing stories and memories with my first born

#124 – how it feels to spend a day with people that are easy to be with, that are a part of our history and our present

#125 – our combined nine children loving each other

#126 – sno cones.  at the very same candy shop I grew up going to with my sisters.  the taste hasn’t changed one bit.

#127 – the hope of new memories, new stories and new favorite places

#128 – tradition

#129 – seeing my son happy for an entire, whole day – the blessing to my heart this is I cannot express

#130 – dirty feet = abundant fun had

#131 – the way time heals so many things

#132 – pink cheeks

#133 – the forgiveness of my husband

#134 – learning to love the gift of today, even when my kitchen is a perpetual mess

#135 – the way my kids eat 2 pounds of cherries in 15 minutes

#136 – working through criticism and finding understanding

#137 – the miracle of a butterfly

#138 – a late winter baby on the way (did I say that already…I might be excited!?)

The truth about life

is that it is a gift.

If you’ve read our blog or known us personally for long, you already know how we feel about this whole thing.  But in case you haven’t, let me just share a little sliver of my heart on the matter.

It started with my sister’s and I rescuing animals of all kind and condition.  It grew when my parents opened our home to pregnant, unwed mothers who had nowhere to live because of their situation.  That taught me that even unplanned, undesired life in the womb could be valued and cherished.  It continued when I had the privilege of sitting with and washing socks for my elderly grandparents as they aged and their bodies failed.  I learned they were still to be valued and cherished even though they could do little more than eat, sleep and talk.

When we married young, it felt reasonable to implement a ‘five year baby plan’.   It seemed like everyone else did the same thing.  We felt pretty confident that we knew what was best for us in this department.  We sought God’s leadership in our life and did our best to follow.  We poured our life and energy into junior high students and loved it.

As year passed and babies came, something shifted in both of our hearts.  We realized were seeking God’s provision, blessing and direction but we wanted it on our terms.  It was easy to couch things in religious language and make it sound spiritual when really we just wanted what we wanted.   Most people we knew operated the same way.

We let go.  We said yes to God’s way of providing for and blessing our family.  It did not and still doesn’t look just like we imagined.  But we’re learning that our yes to life is the road we want to walk together.  Not just the life of children, but life in all forms.

We can breathe life through our actions, our attitude and words to others.  We can share life through opening our home, taking care of someone or by meeting some felt need.  We can marvel at baby kittens moving around in our mama cat’s belly and shriek as we watch butterflies crawl out of their chrysalis’.

We can embrace life for the absolute miracle and treasure it is.  This year more than any other we understand how quickly life can change or vanish.  The worn out phrase really is true, each day is a gift.

Next February we will welcome the next permanent guest at our “table for six” and our hearts could not be more full of joy!

Beautiful things are happening around here…

As we watched the life cycle of the butterfly unfold, I was (always am) reminded of my sister.  She has overcome a great deal and I am so proud of who she has emerged to become.  When she graduated from nursing school last year, I bought her a butterfly necklace and reminded her of this truth, one that has always amazed me:

Before a butterfly can emerge out of it’s chrysalis it has to go through a lot of struggling. Yes, struggling. Each time it lunges out to escape, acids are being removed from its wings. If someone were to come along and break the chrysalis open for it then the butterfly would die from those acids. In essence the struggle is necessary for the butterfly to survive. Then in the stillness, when the struggle is over, the butterfly can come out and share its beauty with the world.

My umpteenth attempt at homemade bread

I think I found the secret.  I have been doing a fair bit of reading about the value of soaking grains and how much better our bodies absorb the nutrients in the grains.  So I was delighted to find a recipe for homemade bread that included soaking the grains overnight first.  I can’t believe how much softer, lighter the bread turned out despite being made almost entirely with fresh, whole wheat flour.  Having a large family, being about to make 4 loaves at one time was also a big draw for me.  I did end up having to knead it by hand and my lower back isn’t thanking me for that but it was worth it!  I’ve been grinding our own flour for 18 months now but haven’t used it for bread making much because my efforts seemed doomed to fail.  Now I am armed with confidence and a great recipe, if I can just plan well enough to do it regularly!

If you are interested in the recipe, you can find it over at Passionate Homemaking.

The way life mixes up

Though sometimes I think it would be nice for life to stay peachy and lovely for a long, long time…it never does.  Every single day life is a mixed up mess of good, extraordinary, crummy and terrible.  At least mine is.  Sure there are long seasons of darkness and heartbreak that seem like they won’t end.  And there are several days in a row where kids don’t argue and calamity hides.  But mostly, it’s just a big mix of everything.  Every single day.

Part of the way I’m finding my way past the ‘months long night’ that I wondered if it would ever pass – is in a daily decision to be grateful.  Grateful for what has been.  For what is.  And for what’s to come.  Joining in with Anne Voskamp in the practice of thankful list-making has radically changed my perspective on  this wife/mama/teacher/cook/driver/planner/mediator life of mine.

Upon opening his birthday card yesterday from my grandparents, our 4 year old shrieked with glee “He’s alive?  Really?  Grampy isn’t gone?”.  I gently explained, again, that it was from his great-grandparents, not from Grampy.  But no words can express the heart pain in trying to make that make sense to a hope-filled little boy.  I wept and his face crumbled.  Grampy is still gone.  And it is no less tragic today than it was that cold, rainy January day when our life changed forever.

My wise mother did her own gentle explaining to me last month over coffee.  As I questioned and doubted most of what I believed, which she assured me was okay, she said:

I think you’re waiting for it to make sense.  For answers.  You want to understand.  You need to understand in order to move forward.  But things like this kind of loss will never, ever make sense.  You won’t find the answers and you won’t understand.  You have to let go and trust what you know to be true about who God is.

That is, in essence, just what I’ve done.  It’s sort of like of  learning to walk with a limp I would imagine.  There is a piece of us that is forever altered by the deep mark of pain.  Every life is marked with some kind of very hard thing that shapes and molds – either for good or for bad.  I read in a magazine just this afternoon that suffering is a universal language.  So after spending months in a place of waiting for some grand epiphany, with timid and slow steps, I am choosing to walk again.

Even if it’s a different walk.  Even if it still feels foggy some days and I still wonder why.  Even if little moments that come from nowhere bring me to my knees.

Life, in all sorts of forms around here, beckons me onward.

The hope of the God who has been nothing but faithful to me for many years, beckons me to walk with Him.

#109 – promises, beautiful promises

#110 – plans and prospects

#111 – the exhilaration of saying yes

#112 – time to have a real conversation after children are all sleeping

#113 – God’s continued provision

#114 – the sweetness of a secret kept

#115 – watermelon juices dripping from all appendages of a clothes-less little girl

#116 – one cool room in one sweltering house

#117 – being called a princess by two little boys in one day

#118 – the utter, complete miracle of this verse and how it’s becoming real to me in a whole new way:

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:3

Ranger Kyler’s birthday party

A few months ago I found old movies on DVD from the thrift store.  One was a bunch of old Lone Ranger episodes.  The kids were hooked.  So naturally, Kyler ended up with a Lone Ranger party this year.  I’m actually finding it a delightful challenge to pick a theme and plan a party that doesn’t blow the bank (like $250 to rent Jump Planet!) and that is plain old fashioned fun.

My sister had her baby last week so my planning had been minimal but we still pulled off a super fun day at a gorgeous local park

The kids were instructed on the Lone Ranger’s job of bringing justice to the Wild West, they were informed that a bank robber bandit was loose in the park (Daddy) and they need to find him.  So they headed out with hats and horses gallivanting  around the park.

Doesn’t he look bad? (grin)

It was a great day for this little man and although he got a bee sting and his eye is now mostly swollen shut, I’d say it was just about perfect.  We’re getting the hang of this birthday thing…two years ago we decided that we wanted birthday’s to be a bigger deal and to take the focus of Christmas off the gifts and focus on the Gift and on blessing others.  We also talked about how having a large family we needed to be intentional about celebrating the uniqueness of each person in our family.  While we don’t have it figured out, it’s sure fun learning!

Lentil Taco Night

For many reasons, I’ve been working on making one meatless dinner a week.  And I’ve also been painstakingly trying to incorporate more beans and legumes into our diet.  They pack such a nutritional punch and are so cheap!  This recipe has become a staple and it is a welcome substitution for a greasy bowl of ground beef taco meat.  It looks similar in color, tastes as good or better and a handful of lentils costs less than a dollar.  For toppings, they are required to have a bit of everything healthy.  That means shredded carrots, olives, avocado, fresh tomato or lettuce.  Then they can add sour cream or cheese if they like.

Lentil Tacos

1 cup finely chopped onion
1-2 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp oil
1 cup dried lentils
1 T chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
2 1/2 cups chicken broth

Toppings: salsa, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, sour cream or avocado

In a skillet, saute onion and garlic in oil until tender.  Add lentils, chili powder, cumin and oregano.  Cook and stir 1 minute.  Add broth, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 25 minutes or till lentils are tender.  Uncover, cook 5-10 minutes until mixture is thickened.  Mash lentils slightly if desired.  I stir some salsa in at this point.  Then serve in tortillas or taco shells.

chocolate+90 degrees+toddler=

a big mess, see exhibit A:

I had to pull her away from her sibling for naps and she was sad, so I gave her a dark chocolate covered blueberry.  I thought she popped it into her mouth which she may have but with the temp around 91 at the time, it went everywhere fast.  I heard her talking in her bed, “Mess, oh mess, mess, mess…” so I peeked on her and above is what I found.  Chocolate everywhere and one happy babe.