We’ve been breathing deep here. Eating the last of July’s blueberries from the freezer. Winter hogs were slaughtered this morning. Tree forts are in the works. Anticipating warmer months to come. Skipping screen-time for sun-time. Making the most of every day together. Learning hour by hour how to love well and speak life. Showing up and abiding next to one another. Messing up and asking forgiveness and trying again. Every. Single. Day.
I didn’t realize after handing over the garden to the kids last year, they would assume ownership again. But I’ve found them outside many an afternoon, hands covered in soil,mapping out their plans for their raised beds. I am happy to defer to them on the matter of growing things. They blew me away last year with their initiative and effort. No good reason not to let them go at it again. I overheard sibling talk like this the day the seeds came “Now remember Audrey, when we transplanted the cucumbers, they all DIED. In ONE night. SO, I think you should start them outside later on or grow them in peat pots so you don’t have to replant them.” And of course talk like this too “You can’t plant your pumpkin THERE. It will RUIN my garden because it’s so huge. Go ask mom for another garden bed but you are not planting pumpkins next to my peas.” Or this, all spoken in one long breath from the four year old, “Mom, you have to choose one, if you could be ONLY one person, who would you be? Henry the Navigator or Ramses the Great? YOUHAVETOPICKONE!”. Oh the sponge-like nature of the younger, not-really-yet-homeschooling-but-absorbing-tons-every-day life of the Finn.
I need to check on the chickens…last I heard was a hearty “Ay friends, we’re going to catch us some flappers for dinner!” Apparently a thriving game of pirate mixed with frontier life is taking place in the back yard at present. “What are flappers Kyler?” “Chickens of course mom, don’t you speak pirate-ese?”.
The announcement goes something like this: “Finn is covered. Head to toe covered. He is completely naked and covered with tiny shards of styrofoam. It’s everywhere. All over the bathroom walls, the counter, the floor. And Finn.”
I take a deep breath. I’m sitting on the couch trying to drink coffee, recovering from a full weekend and our very long Monday. There is some magical thing about a mama who sits down. She can be hustling around fixing breakfast, filling the crockpot with dinner, doing dishes leftover from last night, switching laundry loads, wiping up unidentifiable smashed food and she is near invisible in her work. But sit that mama down and no one misses it. My backside hasn’t been on the couch ten seconds before one, two, then three sweet things are fighting for my lap. Good thing it’s a soft and plentiful lap. Everyone snugs in and about then is when oldest boy comes in with the news about Finn.
And these are the things our everydays are made of. Kids practicing self defense moves on the barn roof. Digging for bones in the forest and coming back with near intact skeletons. Hard working almost teenage Rylee traipsing out to the barn in her pajamas every single morning with a big milk bucket and bed head. Someone forgot to let the turkey out and she’s talking loud from her pen reminding us to set her free for the day. The pigs are done with breakfast but they are ready for second breakfast if anyone cares to oblige. Coyotes are closing in every morning and the three big dogs are on constant watch, sure to bark away any rustle from the forest. A dog shows up locked in the pantry after someone shut him inside to “clean up” an entire box of spilled granola.
A two year old whose sparkling blue eyes are sure to dazzle is happy to climb trees or climb onto counters using drawer knobs as a ladder. She is just as pleased to act as “baby” and get to “nap” in a suitcase. Only the pretend nap turned real and she lays there in the middle of the noisy kitchen for an hour snoozing. She has a penchant for “beddies” (berries) and the berry crisp someone accidentally left here last night ended up being her bedtime snack since she found it (and a spoon) before anyone else did. She loves to snuggle cousins and creatures of every sort.
Blisters on my hands now just healed from an evening of food prep and endless slicing and dicing. The sacrifice of a weeknight evening for the sake of precious friends seemed painfully small but the only thing I could do to communicate love. Their loss of new life at 11 weeks pregnant was all too familiar to us and besides praying our hearts out, food seems the only other way to extend compassion.
There are stacks of great books to be read, one 7 year old sits reading to me this very minute. The library hold shelf bears our name and inquiring ones want to know when we can go pick up the waiting books. Older ones have been enlisted by youngers to place holds so even the littles have books waiting for them today.
As for me, only styrofoam awaits me at the moment I’m afraid. Lots and lots of styrofoam…
***Updated 9:56 AM*** While I scoped out the styrofoam mess I came downstairs to the sound of Dad’s drill on the front porch. This is what I found:
When I inquired about what was taking place, Finn was quick to explain “I caught a moth, I put it in a ziploc and Audrey helped me poke holes so it could breath. I’m going to drill it into the front door to make sure dad can see it when he gets home.” To which I took another deep breath and commended him for his use of eye protection then I explained that while that was very sweet, it would permanently ruin the door. We searched for a big piece of wood and screwed the ziploc into it instead. It is propped up by Dad’s parking spot waiting for his return. The front door is scratched but not badly so.
While it might be very entertaining for me to write these posts every day (as this is very normal) – it would surely overwhelm. But for posterity’s sake I’d sure like to try every now and then!
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a review. While I have certainly read some good books, I haven’t managed to sit down and write about them. But this one requires passing on, The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst. Our flurried, broken, overextended-in-every-way American culture is a living, breathing example of many examples of “you reap what you sow”. Instead of breaking down that reality, may I just say that despite very intentional efforts not to live inside the crazy…sometimes it seems impossibly hard to step back, step aside, step OUT of the continual myriad of activities. Nearly all of them GOOD things. The amount of extracurricular options is staggering. Whether you are married with kids or without, single, young or old….there is nary a shortage of ways you could spend your time and energy.
One particular aspect of this that I find it difficult to navigate is the mentality that if you don’t offer your children a plethora of options, be they flute lessons, karate, a spot on the baseball team, chess club, horse back riding lessons, 4-H, drama class, choir, soccer, art lessons and tickets to a play or five at the local kids theater, that somehow they will be cheated of a “well rounded” and “rich” upbringing. The array of “good things” here is at best mind-blowing. And at worst, well, I don’t know. I suppose I would just venture to say that this way of thinking is a plague in our culture and in fact, learning to have some white space or margin in your life is perhaps one of the very best tools parents should empower their kids with.
It sounds easy right? But its not. Even having moving out of the city into a more rural area, there are so many things one can do! I have done much quiet thinking about it this past year, a year that left me gasping for breath and feeling like I could not, would not possibly be able to continue on the same path. A wise mother said to me just last Tuesday while listening to me wrestle out loud with the too-many-options dilemma, “I have come to a place where I honestly believe, if my child has a very exceptional, genuine kind of gift at playing piano or baseball or something….that talent will well up and emerge regardless of my ability to provide copious amounts of lessons and instruction in its realm.” I breathed a sigh of great relief. And my heart agreed.
If I believe that God’s plans for the lives of my children will not be thwarted by my inadequacies and imperfectness as a parent, then I can instead invest in loving them well, building strong, healthy relationships, providing a solid, vibrant foundation for their lives. Which I’ve come to believe MUST include having a weekly schedule that has room in it to breathe. I absolutely must, as a mother who seeks to walk in wisdom, learn how to make thoughtful decisions for our family and for my own life that reflect a measure of having ‘counted the cost’ of each and every spoken and unspoken YES in my life.
This is where the book by Lysa comes in. I ended the summer feeling terribly unready for the year ahead. Still struggling to bounce back from last year. When I read the tagline under the title, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands, my head just nodded and I clicked ‘place my order’ before the book had even been released. It is practical and so well breaks down the reality of every “yes”. Yes to one thing means a no elsewhere, this is the part I hadn’t learned to think through very well. I just kept on with yes’. I would liken it to writing a check on an empty bank account, eventually the debt is in your face and you have to deal with it. Lysa breaks down, wonderfully well, various ways to learn to cultivate this sort of wisdom and also delves into why it matters so much.
I am learning to weigh my yes and to really sift through all the implications it will have. Slowly, albeit, but learning nonetheless. Just yesterday we were at the pumpkin patch, having great fun with my sister as we have done every year for at least 8 years in a row. I started to get anxious being there, knowing that in two weeks our homeschool group is going on a group trip to another pumpkin patch. I feel obligated to go, my mind had already relinquished to having to go. But as I thought more, talked it out loud a bit, it was so clear. Yesterday was my “best yes”. Two weeks from now will be my wise “no”. And in that, I get to practice something I am not good at, giving grace to myself. Grace to say “one pumpkin patch trip with my six children is all that I can manage this year and that is okay, more than that, it is wise and good”.
If life feels a bit over the top and you aren’t sure how to proceed or how to grow in this aspect, this book is an excellent, very worthwhile read. Really, just about everyone I know fits into that description in some way! My copy is heavily highlighted and written on, which is one of my best measures of good books. Beyond that, my life is incorporating the practical wisdom from the pages and that is surely the best part.
Here are a few snapshots of our one and only wonderful pumpkin patch trip this weekend:
It makes me choke just a bit when I answer people’s frequent question, how old is she? Because I want to say she was just born, fresh and new and perfect but the truth is her birthday was two weeks ago and I can hardly wrap my mind around it. Wasn’t it just yesterday we were walking in the warm sun with popsicles and flip flops awaiting her soon and imminent arrival, not sure if she was a he or a she…if she would tip the tide to four sons or even it up with three sons and three daughters? Could I have known it would be the year it was? That everything would feel hard and that we would never really fall into a groove that felt workable and that we would do so many “great” things that we were plum worn out and worn down? How a little pink bundle would be this beacon of all that is lovely and wonderful to this tired mama on so many dark nights?
To my Liberty Grace on your first birthday,
Freedom and grace. Two of the most critical, valued pieces of our faith, our family, our life. Your name holds such weight for me. It is a never ending reminder of truth that I need constant reminding of. One year. You are walking and waving everywhere. You have perfected the princess, parade wave and you grin a mile wide for everyone you meet. I never have the heart to tell them, be they a friend or a waiter at a resaturant, that you do this for everyone. They think they are exceptionally special based on your warm waves and smile. You have to be the happiest baby ever. At least certainly the happiest one I’ve known. Sometimes I hold your siblings back a bit, telling them it’s too much or give her space. But the reality, your reality, is you are covered, sewn in from every side, with love. So much love. They each adore you in their own sort of way. You draw something unique, something special out of each one of them. The softness that I don’t often see in the big boys, a gentleness from Finn that is wildly uncharacteristic. And a comradery, a sisterhood with the girls, that I know will only grow with age.
It’s been a long year for me. Your brother Finn has required a sort of mental energy that no other child has. The way he thinks and experiences life is momentous, fantastic really. And I’ve no doubt he will change the world, his world, someday. Another brother started the year with a major physical injury that made the school year extra hard and frustrating. It took six months before he was fully restored. It hurt my mama heart more than I can exxpress to not be able to help him, not be able to fix it and make life feel okay for him. There were so many hard days, not days that I would trade or give up for anything, but hard nonetheless.
And then there was you.
Beaming bright beautiful you. You have to know there were many nights, I would be awake nursing you that I wept over your precious little face. Hopelessly in love with your little self. Over the top thankful that you were there for me to hold. You gave hope to me time and time again. You are a simple, in-the-flesh continual gift that I feel like I receive day after day after day. A gift I don’t take lightly and one I am keenly aware I could have missed had the baby I carried the months prior to your conception been carried to term. There would not have been you, one of a kind wonderful you.
You can’t possibly imagine how treasured you are little girl. You just can’t.
All my love,
**a few snapshots of your first year, favorite summer naps in the swing or with big brother, showing goats with sisters, rides in wheelbarrows and horse carts:
She is 64 years beautiful, my one and only, not-like-any-other-mother in all the world. I haven’t ever met anyone quite like her, and I don’t guess I ever will.
When asked by her friend how she’d like to spend her birthday (today), she answered “a picnic in the Arboretum with my daughters and granddaughters”. So that’s just what we did, a girl day in all of Spring’s blooming, pink glory. And we even had an extra bonus, my mom’s younger sister was here unexpectedly and got to join in the fun!
She’s the one who can step up, step in when there is a mess of any sort…be it the heart kind or the laundry kind. She has listened and loved for so many hundreds of hours over the past 35 years of my life and I’m just now beginning to understand the greatness of that gift. She has offered wisdom and grace and encouragement when my need has been paramount. She has stepped out in faith, taken risks, been brave and continued to pursue Jesus with all her heart. She has modeled a faithful, unwavering commitment to the vows of marriage, which in this era is a fading thing of beauty. That we’ve been blessed to live within 30 minutes drive of her and my dad for these past 15 years is such a treasure.
What a perfect day we had to celebrate! Warm spring days aren’t any given around these parts and we couldn’t have asked for a better one. Nor could any of us girls have asked for a better mom. Each of our lives holds all sorts of bits and pieces of her life and love all wrapped up into the women we are still becoming.
Thank you mom for letting each of us be “us”
and loving us
better with every passing year.
I read these verses this morning and they so describe my parents, we may be more familiar with the cherry tree instead of the cedars of Lebanon but certainly they are planted and rooted in God’s house, still bearing fruit in their “old” age, full of “green” life and declaring still the faithfulness of God…
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, there is no unrighteousness in him. (Psalm 92:12-15)
Busy days here…keeping up with school work and farm work is filling the days right up. Here are some glimpses into what we’re up to:
The boys and daddy headed to the local Mountain Man show – by next year I vow to have a proper outfit for the hubby to wear, if he dares!
It was sunny one day, so they donned swimsuits and went down the creek…turns out it wasn’t warm enough for a swim…but it was fun.
worlds’ cutest little garden helper
“the kind of thing brothers like to do”
our friend Tom doing a (fantastic) barn add-on so we’ve got room for babies due end of April
this farm girl has been working overtime helping with animals and work these days – her goat Blanchette is due May 1 with her first set of kids – we can feel them moving inside her belly every day
the 54 meat chicks have graduated outdoors to their chicken tractor – thank goodness, smelly little buggers overstayed their welcome in the garage
how this chicken could NOT make you laugh out loud, I don’t know, her name is Benny and she was the “free bonus chick” with our hatchery order – she or he is a riot – she resides in a pen with 25 brown Rhode Island Red pullets (below)
remember those strawberries I wrote about? here they are, putting down roots and setting new leaves!
bare root raspberries, just getting their first leaves, seems weird to plant a stick looking thing in the ground and expect it to do something, but it is!
trying out a bite of dandelion next to the cucumber bed
daddy’s super cool mason bee home that we put three tubes of dormant mason bees into with hopes they will come out soon and pollinate all over our yard!
One of the challenges that I’d never really thought much about that we would face as our family grew was that we would have choices to be made about what sorts of things we would say yes to outside the things we do at home. Not that we spend our days here in a bubble not engaging with the outside world. Not at all so. We love having a steady stream of people here for one thing or another.
Some of our friends are highly involved and committed to year around sports. While for certain families this works great, it also has the potential to fragment the family quite a bit. Dinners together are the exception instead of the rule. The costs for kids who move beyond recreation-level sports are into the many hundreds of dollars per season. However, even for just 6 weeks of YMCA level, “for fun” soccer for our kids it would have cost us almost $500.
When one child excels in a sport, it’s easy to get excited and put others on the sidelines (literally and figuratively). We’ve watched this play out just this past year in fact. It is harder than I’d have guessed to find things that a family with several children can be involved in together.
Two years ago this fall we happened upon a county wide 4-H meeting near us. We stopped and talked with each club leader for any animals we were interested in. The commitment levels varied a great deal. The personality and “feel” of the groups did as well. We still lived in our tiny rambler with our five children, mostly quite happily. We had chickens and a dog and a cat. We were far from anything that resembled any sort of country, agricultural life. But we signed up anyway. Figuring we could just learn about animals, make some friends and have some fun.
We had no idea what we were in for. We spent that first year learning all sorts of interesting things about dairy goats. But better than that we made some great friends. Grown up ones as well as kid ones. Each of our children were challenged to give presentations to the group. Learning to stand up in front of your peers and share about something is such a helpful lifelong skill.
When we had the opportunity to move part way through that year we found ourselves living at the end of an unmaintained county road with a small pasture already in place. And it happened to be just about kidding season. Three baby goats quickly found their way to our little family farm and into our hearts.
Of course fair season is the culmination of the 4-H year. We didn’t really “get” that the first year. Last year we showed up at one small community fair and had a ball. This year we did the same fair (pictures below!) but had anticipated all year long that we would do the Big One. The full Monty of the fair world around these parts. But it requires its own post which I promise to work on this week. For now, here are some snapshots of us enjoying our time at Silvana together. Even just a one-day, all day event for seven people isn’t a small affair….but it was insanely fun for all of us. Finn included!
It’s been exactly one year since we moved out here. Since I told the kids this bedtime story. To the big yellow house at the end of the road. The one I’d bookmarked as a “dream” on my computer that for a year I would compare every other house to and come up lacking. The one with space for kids to run and gardens to grow and goats to graze. The one with the “revolving” front door that welcomes a couple dozen people on a weekly basis. Not into perfection or Martha Stewart life but into our mess. On our knees as we scrubbed blueberries out of the off-white carpet two weeks ago, he said to me with a smile “You know, not too many places could withstand this…”. True. But that’s our life in a picture….loving people and blueberry stained carpet instead of pristine spaces and no one to share them with.
I don’t know when I won’t drive down our county road and not marvel at the mountains God moved to get us here. Hopefully never. Forgetting the goodness is a such critical piece of what makes me forget to be thankful.
There have been countless “firsts” here. Today was our first farm picnic next to a big John Deere tractor:
And the first time we watched posts get slammed into the ground for our fence:
As well as the first time I caught all five of our kids on a tractor…