Square foot gardening

Two years ago a girlfriend and I attended a fantastic seminar on gardening with God.  It was full of spiritual and practical information on growing things and how God grows us.  Last year we did our best to grow what we could with the space we had but didn’t have fantastic yield or results.  Not ever enough for a meal, except for maybe the carrots and snap peas.  It was a very cool summer for us and that didn’t help my novice gardening much either.

I remembered a book that had been recommended, called Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  The premise of the book is basically:

If you want to grow more vegetables-and flowers-in less space, this book is for you.  You’ll no longer have to worry about weeds and fertilizers.  It is the best method for someone who wants good veggies with the least amount of work.

I’m not quite finished reading it but my has it lit my gardening fire!  I am making lists (a bit late granted, but I did just have a baby!) and calling around checking on dirt prices and hoping we can grow enough food for at least some of our summer/fall meals to come.  Though we are still plugging along with homeschool from now till the end of May or early June, the garden endeavor will be a big part of our summer learning and family life.  I am so looking forward to it all…now back to our history lessons for the day!

But real quick, here’s a great article on starting your own backyard garden revolution, even if you don’t have much space or you think its too hard or you don’t have time…maybe it will inspire you to simply try growing some herbs on your patio or a tomato plant in a pot.  Baby steps are better than none – there’s nothing so satisfying as serving up food that you grew yourself!

Audrey’s prayer

At bedtime every night Audrey prays nearly the same fervent prayers, typing it out doesn’t do much justice but I thought I’d try…

Audrey (eyes squeezed shut, hands clasped tight):  “Dear Jesus, I pray for Mavin and Fatuma and Carlos and Mariela and for the people in Meepan (Japan) for Jesus to have his hand on the people and to be with them.  And for Mama and Daddy and my sister Rylee.  And baby Phineas, to not cry.  And Caleb and Kyler.  And for mama’s head (I got pegged with a rock over a month ago, she doesn’t forget).”

Mama:  “Thanks Audrey, that was a sweet prayer.”

Audrey:  “You know God is in Meepan, he’s with the people.  He is.”

Mama:  “I know, aren’t you glad he is?  They need him so much right now.”

Audrey:  “Yeah, there was a big, BIG wave and flood and washed the houses over and the people were under the water.  God is there.”

Mama:  “Yes.  He is.  And here too and all around.”

Audrey:  “Yup, and with Carlos and Mariela and Fatuma and Mavin too…”

Beauty for ashes

Our pastor is in a sermon series on Psalm 23, perhaps one of the most famous, read passages of scripture in the whole Bible.  Last week he taught on verse 3, “He restores my soul”.  As he talked about grief I couldn’t help but look back over the last year of our life.

I just finished ordering a printed, bound copy of our blog like I do every year.  I perused the pages and remembered.  The first and last months of the year held great loss for us.  One day I was writing about the cost of prescription drugs and the next I was literally unable to get off the floor in absolute shock as my husband sent news from over the mountain pass that he had found his dad, who’d not returned from a hunting trip.  He was not alive.

The gut-wrenching grief that ensued was beyond words.  Though we’d walked through some pretty devastating things already, this was unlike any other.  We walked through the heartache in our own ways and held onto each other for dear life.  I questioned God’s goodness and who He really was, for the first time in my adult life.  I tried to read books and articles but nothing gave me the answers I sought.

One of the message points on Sunday was about accepting what cannot be changed.  I think that part is pivotal in determining how/if someone gets through significant loss.  Ultimately, nothing I could do or say or think or feel would alter what happened.  Making the conscious decision to “get up from the ground” like David did in 2 Samuel after his son died ,is a decision we have to make.  No one can make it for us.

In the way only He works,  as life moved on and we continued along the sacred and tender journey together, God ever so graciously gifted us with a reminder of all the potential and all the beauty that life is.  Five months after losing Chris’ dad, we found out we were expecting our fifth child, just a few days before Father’s Day.

“Talk about beauty for ashes” my dear friend wrote to me when I told her the news.  Beauty for ashes indeed…mourning into gladness.

Realizing how fragile and unpredictable life really is, we decided to do something totally out of character for us and go to Hawaii for 11 days in November when my parents offered to share their timeshare with us.  It was a trip of a lifetime and though a LOT of work, was a precious gift of time as a family and we cherished every minute.

As the year came to a close, we all held our breath waiting for our aging grandma to make the trip with my mom across the country to come for a 3 week Christmas stay.  We made cookies, played around her chair and soaked up sweet time with her.  Little did we know those were her last days and the day after Christmas she would have a stroke and be ushered into heaven just 4 days later.

Leaning over her bed with my bulging baby belly, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed at the full spectrum of life I was watching.  The very new, growing inside me and the very old, slipping away slowly as we held hands.

Though none of it was just what we expected I marvel at the way God weaves beauty and promise in the midst of pain and loss.  I will never tire of watching.  And I will keep counting…

#405 – the way God works and the knowing I’ll never truly understand it all

#406 – a mama of 7 children who just had a c-section bringing our family dinner today

#407 – a very tired oldest boy sleeping in until 10:30

#408 – the miracle blanket

#409 – 7 loads of clean laundry piled high in the family room (at least they’re clean right?)

#410 – promises

#411 – kind words spoken at just the right moment

#412 – making a garden list

#413 – rubbing a fuzzy soft baby head with my cheek in the early, early morning dark

#414 – a full fridge for a l-o-n-g week

#415 – girl scout cookies

#416 – our beauty for ashes baby boy

A bowl full of love

It’s the sixth day in a row of me figuring out how to be a stay-at-home-homeschooling mama to five children.  I knew Chris would have to work a Saturday shortly after we welcomed our newest one, who is only 16 days old.  And I’ve had a great deal of help this week.  And baby Phineas is sweetly giving me 2 or 3 hour stretches of sleep at night (better than normal for us!).

But still today seemed a mighty tall order when I woke up.  Rylee’s last ballet class was today and she wanted an audience for the ‘recital’ of sorts.  Taking five kids 8 and under to the crazy hectic YMCA felt overwhelming to put it mildly.  My sister and her son joined us.  My dad came to help.  I signed the boys in to the play area and the rest of us headed to watch Rylee dance.

She smiles and delights in having us there to see her.  Her little cousin Isaac loves watching her.  I rock the baby carseat to keep Phineas settled.  All is well.

Towards the end of the class the childcare worker comes in to the ballet room and I know right away she is there for me.  Blood rushes to my face and I started apologizing before she can finish telling me how out of control he is and that I have to come get him.  I hear him through closed doors.  I ask him to come and he won’t and then pick him up.  And he fights me with all he has and I hold him with all I have.

I realize I left the baby and he’s probably crying with my sister and I run through the rain holding a 50 pound boy with an aching post-partum body and do my very best to keep it together.  My sister meets with with a sobbing baby who needs to nurse.  I hold a much larger sobbing one who needs something, I don’t know just what.  I hustle into the class, gather our things and tell Rylee we can’t stay for the end of class.

It is hard in so many ways.  I feel silly for thinking we could do this today.  It feels unfair to the other kids.  It feels unfair to me.  And I want so bad to fix it and make it better.

We make it home.  My sweet dad heads home and I assure him I’ll be okay and admit that I’ll cry about it later.  Just not now.  I rummage around for lunch and find myself so thankful for already cut strawberries, baby carrots and two boxes of mac and cheese.  I hold a crying baby and together with Kyler make the pasta and he serves everyone up.

I lay Phineas down.  I sit at the counter and listen to bickering at the table.  I am hungry.  I open the freezer and remember all the little individual bowls of lentil, sausage, chicken, sweet potato soup my friend Kim made me.  “To nourish you and help you make enough milk for that big baby!” she said.  I thaw a bowl and sit down again.  I start to eat and start to cry.  I think about her own pregnant self, seven months along with her sixth child, with more than enough on her plate but still knowing I need to eat and won’t make the time to do it…and I weep into my bowl of love-soup.  Something about the feeling that someone far away knows the road you are walking and loves you and understands – makes me feel like I’ll make it through the day.

I ask a son to pass me my drink.  He does.  It tips and spills 16 ounces of cranberry seltzer all over my lap and drenches my cell phone.  I am calm and the tears are silent ones as he says he’s so sorry and it was an accident and wipes up towel after towel of bright red juice.  I take the battery out quickly but it is soaked and doesn’t work.

I remind myself that across the ocean tragedy has overtaken a nation.  And that having a husband gone at work is reason to give thanks…when many are without the work they need.  And my little people will grow into big people.

And that the unique challenges of one child are for the good of all of us.  Each one of them was given to us with a purpose.  Even if I can’t see it today.

Overheard in the kitchen…

Audrey (who is potty training and wearing panties): “I leaked, yeah I did.”

Kyler: “You can’t leak if you don’t have a diaper on.”

Audrey: “No I did, I leaked.”

Mama: “Did you pee?”

Audrey: “No, I leaked.”

Kyler: “Yeah, it’s just water on her chair.”

Audrey: “No, I did, I leaked.”

Kyler: “It’s just…uh no, its not water.  I just licked it.  It’s pee for sure.”

Mama laughs so hard she cries while taking wet clothes of potty training girl and Kyler can’t wipe the look of terror off his face in realization of what just happened.


A miracle, every time

#380 – #404 on my gratitude list this week from a heart overflowing with thankfulness…

an intense 3 hour labor 5 days before my due date

blood pressure stabilized enough to deliver at home as hoped for

laboring at the kitchen counter with precious little distractions hovering around me

two amazing midwives and the unique care they bring

a sweet 8 year old daughter rubbing my back between pushes whispering “Good job mama, you’re doing good”

a husband brave enough to help catch the baby

the miracle moment that is just as amazing every single time it happens….when a new baby is placed into your arms

hearing “its a BOY!”

seeing rolls of skin all over said boy

hearing “10 pounds 11 ounces” and gasping in shock

snuggling in bed minutes after he is born with curious siblings all over

tucking excited, tired kids into cozy beds on a cold, snowy evening

the quiet after midwives and family are gone and we are left with a new son in our arms

realizing how much such a big baby needs to eat

holding hands under the sheets and snuggling closer relishing what just took place



the smell of a newborn

instantly and forever glad we said yes to one more

quiet prayers of gratitude whispered in the dark

pondering names and knowing the ones

Phineas (first name) – a man of the Old Testament, who stood for righteousness and was “zealous for the honor of his God”

Jon (middle name) – a man of today, my father, who also stands for God’s righteousness and honor

family and friends that greatly lift the load, watch children, run errands and fill in the holes while we adjust to ‘new normal’

treasuring each moment, ever so aware that this season is short lived and I won’t get it back