Three months later

It’s been just over three months.

Three months since my husbands’ dad didn’t return from a hunting trip.

Three months since he hopped into his car to go join the search crew.

Three months since my pregnant sister came in the dark of night to lay in my bed with me and wait.

Three months since I dropped the phone on the floor and screamed when the text came.

Just four words.   But they said everything.

The rest of the world moved on.  Life crawled forward.  Each of us is processing differently.  Very differently.

One wants to talk.  Another doesn’t.  One cries.  One doesn’t.

The covering of sadness still rests here regardless of the joy we have experienced in the meantime.

I have no idea how long it will stay.  I think for a while longer.  But there is no manual for this.  No map of what is ahead.  Just one day after one day after one day.

We can choose to remember or we can choose to forget.

We can choose hardness and anger or we can choose tender softness even though it hurts more.

We can choose to turn inward or outward and let someone hold our hand.

We can fuss and fret over small stuff or we can let things go and be thankful for what we’ve been given.

Life.  Health.  Beauty.  Love.

Seems to me that we are in a constant state of choosing.

Just when I think the kids don’t think about it….one who’s only 3 prays at the dinner table “please God, let Grammy live forever, don’t let her die too”….or I find the kids in the family room “playing funeral Mama, I’m pretending my baby son died”.   I let them be.  We have not forced anything with them.   We have offered space to process and feel in all our different ways.  Just listened and loved and answered question after question as they walk the path with us.

One sure thing is we aren’t the same.  We won’t be the same.  Love and loss leave a mark.

I think it’s largely up to us to choose what kind of mark.  One mark of bitterness or one of grace.

On the table tonight…

I feel like I should have a title for my dinner recipes but I have no creative blog post titles!

Oh well…this is what we had for dinner and I thought I should share because it was delicious and easy.

It started with a trip to the store for my weekly groceries, I found a lean piece of pork sirloin roast for cheap so I bought that and wanted to make BBQ pork shredded sandwiches for dinner today – Monday is soccer practice during dinner and we come home starving (that is, if we make it home without stopping like this disastrous night!).  But my favorite BBQ sauce, one made without high fructose corn syrup and that tastes super good, wasn’t on sale and I needed two bottles.  It was almost $5 a bottle!  Crazy.  No way I was going to pay that.  So I came home resolved to make my own BBQ sauce, I’d done this once before with enchilada sauce and it worked out well so I thought I ought to try again.

I found this simple recipe online and after making it I poured it over the roughly cut up pork roast in the slow cooker and turned it on this morning.  By afternoon you could smell it down the street and the meat was falling apart.  I had leftover buns from burger night so we had those to use for the sandwiches.

Simple BBQ sauce

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T chopped onion
2 t lemon juice
1 t Worcestershire sauce
few grinds fresh black pepper
pinch of allspice
pinch of celery seed or celery salt
good sized pinch of mustard powder
few drops liquid smoke, only if you happen to have some handy like I did

Combine all ingredients on stove, simmer a few minutes then use as desired.

I took the meat out before dinner to make sure it was all chopped/shredded up.  Then fill up some buns and voila!  Yum.   I didn’t figure out cost but I’m sure it cost much less than Stubb’s by the (small) bottle!  It would work easily with any other lean cut of meat, beef, or pork or even chicken I’m sure.  We also enjoy BBQ meatballs, meatballs that simmer an hour in BBQ sauce then we eat them over brown rice.  Also a tasty easy dinner that the kids all like.  But if you made this and didn’t have a large family, you’d surely have leftovers that would freeze nicely for another meal.

If my husband hadn’t eaten three of the sandwiches we might have had leftovers…but he did and we don’t.  Nothing says love like an empty plate. 🙂

Not Me Monday!

It’s been a while since I joined in MckMama’s Not Me Monday, but thought I would today!

I did not find a two year old who had ‘gone dark’ in her room with a set of marking coloring all over her body in absolute silence.  She then did NOT spend 20 minutes trying to clean herself up!

I did not giggle my way through three days of our cat being in heat and watching the kids keep an eye out for possible boy cats in the yard, then laugh as they shoved her (an indoor cat) out the door since they don’t know the specifics but they know that to get baby kittens, a boy cat is required.  Oh my the questions that ensued…”Does the boy cat husband need to move in with us?”, “How long will he need to spend with her?” and “How will he know that she needs help when her kittens are born?”

I did not let our 7 year old paint the toes of our 2 year old while the brothers watched…much too young for that!

I did not smile with pride over the fact that I got bright blue crayon out of one of my husband’s favorite shirts.  That would be lame.

Upon discovering I fit into my old, favorite jeans, I certainly did not wear them for 3 days in a row.  Nor would I be wearing them today…

I did not kiss and snuggle my husband in a booth at Red Robin last night whilst our four children talked loudly, drew (mostly on the paper) with crayons and thank him for the gift they are.  Surely he didn’t respond with “You’d better get back to your side of the table, don’t you know what too much snuggling leads to?”

and lastly,

I most definitely did not fall asleep on the floor during my DVD exercise workout.  After 40 minutes of burning cardio, there is no way I was in the middle of crunches when I my 7 year old startled me by nudging my leg and saying ‘Mama, wake up…you fell asleep but you’re not done yet!”.  That would be embarrassing.

The thing about women

…is that we often don’t mean what we say.  Or say what we mean to.  Which leads to not taking what other women say at face value.  It’s part of our highly relational, complicated nature.  It’s something that throws a major wrench in marital communication – at least in my experience.  I’m guilty too often of agreeing to something that I didn’t really want to do but said was fine, or saying I didn’t care about something when actually I cared a lot.

Rylee recently heard me say I liked something and then asked me later if I really liked it.  I tried to navigate my way through explaining the need for honesty and for respecting other people’s opinions about things.  It’s a fine line and one that as it came out of my mouth made less sense than before.

So last night, as I headed to Costco with only one kids while the others were out with dad, I sent a text to a good friend who I know has been really sick all week with flu/migraine yucky stuff.  I asked if I could pick anything up for her while I was there.  I purchased all my things and didn’t hear from her.  Audrey was starting to throw fits about the cart so even though she was in jammies, I let her out to walk around on the dirty concrete floor.

Then I checked my phone one last time and read this text:

Jiff crmy p-nut btr,
string chease
graded chease,
fruit snacks,
little cans of apple jce,
and hamburger buns.

R u sure u want to get all of this stuff for us its alot.

I chuckled a bit and asked the checker for another cart and ran back through the store to get her list.  I guessed on what kind of cheese and which fruit snacks but had to call about the yogurt.

“Hi, it’s me I got Yoplait is that okay for yogurt?”

“Yes, but I’m just getting out of the bath, I was trying to gear up and not throw up long enough to go up the street to the grocery store for food for the kids and I’m just reading the text you sent-” (I’m thinking that’s funny because I already received a list!) “-the kids had my phone and they texted you back, I had no idea!  I’m so sorry, I told them you must have the kids with them and that was too many things and-”

I interrupted and started laughing and told her I had it all in my cart already and I would drop it by in a bit.  We laughed and laughed and hung up and I took tantrum throwing Audrey, bribed her with chocolate-covered pomegranates, bought my second cart of stuff and high tailed it out of there.

As I got in the car I was so amused and thought about it all the way to pick the kids up.   When that text came, I was delighted, and honestly surprised that she would say yes and let me help in that way.  I am the same way, much preferring to be the one giving the help than receiving.  I’m growing and in the last 4 months I’ve had to accept more help than I can list because of the dual-kidney infection and losing Chris’ dad.

With small children it’s easy to feel like you can’t really do much to help people out but there is usually something small but significant that you actually can do.  And getting the chance to bless something by grabbing groceries or dropping off a meal is as much a gift to me as it is to the person I’m doing it for.

My friends’ teenagers saw their really sick mom, their dad was working late and they needed food for lunches.  So when they read my offer to get stuff, they didn’t filter it through the “does she really mean it or is she just offering to be nice?” filter that we as women tend to use too often.  They took me at my word, say yes please help and allowed me the gift of blessing them.

How much easier would life be if we did this all the time!?

If when my husband says “Man you look hot!” I just said thank you and smiled instead of thinking about the 20 pounds more I should lose.

If when a friend offers to bring dinner and I’m not ‘that sick’, I just say yes and thank you and trust that she’ll be blessed in blessing me.

Chris and I had a great laugh thinking about how much my friends’ kids could have milked it, I could have been asked to bring candy bars, soda or chips and since they text in the same abbreviated fashion as their mama, I’d never have questioned it.  I’d just have showed up with whatever they asked for.  I told her they were good kids to just ask for what they needed and they must have said thank you to me ten times in the five minutes I was there.

Lessons I’m learning, it’s a constant thing isn’t it?

Stopping to smell…life

Slowing down enough to live moment to moment isn’t something that comes naturally for me.  I don’t think it’s probably something that’s easy for most people in American culture actually.  We are busy and tired a good part of the time.  Every month or so I look at our whole family calendar and continually try to adjust and change it as needed so that we aren’t crazy busy and so that free time is built in where we need it.  Somehow every time I do this, one more thing has crept onto the radar.  And likewise other things have fallen off the radar like our goal of dates once a month for us or individual, intentional time with each kid every month.

Keeping things balanced, the fun and the less-than-fun, school work and play work, running and resting, is a constant challenge.  It’s 10:00 at night and I’d love to snuggle and watch a movie with the husband that I don’t see much during the week.  But it’s 10:00 and I’ve been on my game cleaning, teaching, cooking, helping and directing since 7 AM.   And sleep often wins these days because I am just so darn tired.

It would be fun to have play dates every day of the week, but then sadly we’d never manage to get any school work done.  So we try to keep that to once a week as we’re still doing major catch up on school.

It’s last Friday night and no dinner is planned.  The fridge is empty and we’re overdue for a Costco trip.  I gear up to go alone with the kids but Chris finishes work early and we meet there.  We have hot dogs and pizza and split up the grocery list.  Does this count for our date for the month?  I think not.  Somehow the basic necessities are always shoving out things that are actually hugely important but somehow get pushed off the list too easily.

Last night Chris unexpectedly made it home in time to take kids to soccer.  So I grabbed the stroller and took Audrey for a long, brisk walk.  As I sped down the street trying to get my tired heartrate up enough to count it exercise I made lists in my head, fed my general sense of “you aren’t getting much right in life at the moment you know?”.

Then I saw them.

They were purple and huge and billowing out over the sidewalk ahead of me.

I slowed down as I approached them.  I shoved my face into the blooms and tears came.

The very sight and smell of them instantly took me back 11 years.  The week before our wedding when, to save money, I was to cut and deliver all the lilacs that would be incorporated into all the flowers for the wedding.  Only when I went to my grandma’s house to get them, her’s had bloomed too early and were all falling to the ground.  In a slight panic we drove to Costco to purchase some there but the power was out and they had closed early.  In a bit more panic then we drove around Kirkland until we found a beautiful home with a whole yard full of lilacs in every color just blooming.  My friend Shauna and I knocked on the door and politely shared the story and asked if there was any way we could cut some of their lilacs.  They were so sweet and said yes.  Crisis averted.

So lilacs are hand in hand with love to me.  They were everywhere on my wedding day.  Perfect and lovely day that it was, it felt like a dream way too good to be true.

While I stood in front of a strangers yard last night, my mental lists all disappeared.  My heart rate slowed quickly to non-exercise level.  And it turned all warm inside as my mind traveled back to sweet days of courting and the afternoon we said “I do”.  As I smelled bloom after bloom I was so struck by how much I need it.  I need to remember.  I need to slow down.  I need to savor the moments.

I won’t get this back later when I’m less tired, have more energy and more free time.  These life shaping, life draining years with small children will pass.  It’s up to me to take the moments that come and pass them by or choose to slow down and welcome them.  Easy to say, hard to do I know.

But I’m going to try…

Sunny beautiful Sunday

We made friends with turtles, laid on a blanket in the sun, had a picnic, climbed trees, found a family of 10 baby ducklings, picked up huge sticks, held hands and reminisced that once, long ago in what seems like another lifetime we used to smooch for a very long while in these trees when we dated in high school.

When the stars align…

…and four young siblings all agree for a brief moment in time it is a lovely gift.

Rylee led her younger siblings in this darling tea party while I was cleaning the kitchen last week.  She served water ‘tea’ to everyone and for a few sweet minutes no one argued and they all sat their engrossed in their little world.  Water did get everywhere but it’s just water right?  And kicking did ensue momentarily as the tea party wound down, but that’s boys right?

Make your own pizza night

With homeschooling, caring for 4 little kids and a husband who often is gone for 12 or 14 hours in a day…getting to dinner with no plan is inevitable despite planning and shopping ahead.  This dinner has become a big favorite around here and I keep the ‘crust’ in the freezer as a back up for the days I get to 5:00 and have nothing in the oven!

It is easy, social, healthy, fast and great fun.  We’ve experimented with many pizza doughs and the best is home-made whole wheat pizza dough crust.  But the much easier and faster option that tastes exceptional is Indian Nan bread.  Pita bread pockets are good and very healthy but not nearly so yummy.  First, I open a bottle of inexpensive white table wine, because cooking and wine just go so well together.  I use leftover spaghetti sauce or canned tomato sauce/paste or a mix of the above with a heap of Italian seasoning.  No need for buying canned pizza sauce.  Then, I do a quick inventory of our topping options and throw it all into bowls:

The toppings are (in our house) any of these things…

sausage, ground beef, leftover meatball chunks or ham
feta, mozzarella, parmesan or goat cheese
red peppers, artichokes, olives, mushrooms, onion, garlic or tomatoes

or whatever else is hanging around that needs using up!

The kids help with the cutting of toppings and each drizzle & spread olive oil over their pizza.  Then they spread sauce and cover with toppings.  Their job is to do something unique to make sure they know it’s their pizza!

After everyone has made their pizzas, we bake them for about 12 minutes at 400 degrees.  Till they are hot and bubbly.  Then there is silence at the table and everyone gobbles up their culinary creations!  We even served this recently when new friends (a couple with four kids) was over for dinner.  We did the eight kid pizzas then the adults, everyone had so much fun!  If we have babies/toddlers we use English muffins which are a more fitting size for little bitty ones that eat table food.  Bon appetit!

If we’re extra lucky, we get a glimpse of our strawberry stealer while making pizzas…

Rain, rain and rain

It’s certainly spring time in Seattle, the kids are on the verge of totally stir crazy today.  I went to put clothes away and came back to find the two oldest enjoying the fact that our new gutters aren’t hooked up to drain spouts yet, they pour streams of water straight down….

Sometimes you just have to smile and say ‘yes’.
Yes to mess.  Yes to impractical.  Yes to loud.  Yes to ‘one more chapter’.  Yes to silly.

Once they were done and freezing they spent 30 minutes playing and getting warm in the bath!

Why use toast…

…when you could use a spoon and just eat the whole jar of raspberry jam while mama isn’t watching!

Two years ago we went crazy with berries and made so much jam that we couldn’t make any last year (freezer jam is best within a year) and we’re doing our part to use it all up before new berries are ready to be picked.  Audrey heard about the surplus and thought she’d just finish a jar!  Two years ago I discovered that there was a low-sugar pectin I could use, I tried it and though the recipe took twice the fruit, it used half the sugar.  So our jam was more like fruit spread.  It is a precious commodity in this house and nobody missed the sugar!

Can’t wait for summer and berry pickin’!