Life with boys

While I am no expert like my sweet friend Kimberly, the blessed mama to SIX lovely boys, I am learning.  A lot.  Having grown up with only sisters, the world of legos, star wars and weapons was entirely foreign to me.  Now that boys win around here (for the moment at least) with Phineas’ birth tipping to scale to boys-by-one, I’m trekking along on my journey of learning to love and nurture these little men the best I can.

There are some, like writer Sally Clarkson (whose two-part guest post on the MOB blog was excellent), far more seasoned in the raising of boys, I’m still a well-intentioned newbie.  Many a day I can be heard saying “how do you do that? why did you do that? that is NOT a weapon!”.    The way their little minds work is a mystery often.  They have energy and a zeal for rocks, dirt, things with wheels, tools and all things battle-related that blows me away sometimes.  How they could cultivate all that boyness in a sit down, school-room-all-day setting is beyond me.

I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to learn at home and lend them the freedom to spend hours taking apart home appliances with their ‘man box’ tools and to craft all sorts of things out of cardboard boxes and duct tape.  The freedom to whoop and holler and wrestle and be all the boy they are.  The simple gift of time to spend in wonder at the black beetle in the yard and how it always seems to turns itself right side up.  The chance to share a newly acquired skill with a younger sibling.

But I’m getting sidetracked.  My point today was simply the beauty of learning to embrace little boys for all the wonder they were created to be.  So that when you sit down to the lunch table, finally able to eat, and look to your left to see this:

And you hear him say with glee “It’s not a sandwich, its a TANK!” as he stuffs cherry stems into his grilled cheese sandwich in complete delight so much so that he inspires his older brother to do the same so they can have grilled-cheese-cherry-stem battles right there at the lunch table.

And I’ve walked this road enough to know that some days, I absolutely have to smile and giggle and tell them their ‘tanks’ look awesome and what a fabulous idea that is.  We can let the ‘don’t play with your food’ lecture wait for another day.  I’m pretty sure we’ll all survive (grin).

Daily snapshot(s)

Too hard to pick just one this week:

This is what kids do in Seattle (or the Pacific Northwest!) when summer forgets to come and it rains day after day after day all the way through July – they sell cookies and hot tea in the rain with an umbrella and a cover on the cookie plate.
Totally on their own initiative, I was so tickled!

It amazes me how when we take the time to put up the easel (outdoors), get out lots of paint colors, big paper pieces and set up ‘art shop’ how the creating always ends up more inspired, more carefully done, more thoughtful.

A seven year old boy does this kind of thing for me, often.
He knows how it makes me smile.
He tries to subtly be around when I open the freezer door to find gorilla –
or the fridge to find a plastic snake on the egg carton.
Oh the grins he gives!

A special place

Many years ago when my grandparents health was failing and my parents were forced to make hard choices about selling the family summer home on the beach just north of here, it was devastating.  I had endless memories, the happiest and best ones, of spending time there together year after year.  It took me 7 years to even go there again to visit.  But as the years passed my parents sought out a new ‘special place’ to build family memories.  They bought a timeshare condo in the mountains less than two hours from here.  Our kids are already enjoying the sweet predictability of ‘doing the same thing’ just like my sisters’ and I did growing up.  There is something rich about tradition.

That’s what drove me to pack up the van, travel without my husband and head north for two days despite a slightly sick baby and knowing I’d not sleep much at all.

So we could hike Horseshoe Bend trail….again.

So we could throw countless sticks and rocks into the raging river –

So Nana could look all “Daniel Boone” like this –

So we could discover a natural-formed teeter totter log –

So Finn could go on his first backpack hike and fall asleep –

So Audrey could squeal every time she watched a blue jay steal a peanut from our deck –

So we could swim and swim and swim some more!

From the back seat

Overheard in the van this week:

Caleb –  “I’m going to grow up to be bigger than Rylee you know, because boys are bigger than girls.”

Kyler –  “Maybe…but mom is bigger than dad, so maybe not?”

Caleb:  “No, I will, I’m sure.”

Kyler –  “But mom is a little bit the E-word.”

Caleb –  “No, she’s the F-word, you mean.  Yeah, but don’t say it, it isn’t polite.”

Mama is thinking these boys don’t realize that in 5 short months since Finn’s birth I’ve lost 30 pounds and am pleased as punch to be back at what I weighed before baby #3 – even if I’ve still got a ways to go!  Not to mention they’ve no idea what most people think when they hear “F-word”.  Making a mental note to work on phonics some more with Kyler, who apparently has E and F sounds a bit mixed…

Kyler:  “I KNOW, I didn’t say FAT!”

Mama can’t control the front seat giggles and thanks them for trying to be courteous.  If this isn’t the most humbling job in the world I don’t know what is (grin).

We have today

Its an early Friday morning and I wish I could press fast forward and skip the emotions that I know are coming my way.  I feel like the day is going to take me and probably kicking and screaming (inside).

I’ve planned every detail, lined up a new babysitter to help us, said yes to my mom’s offer to help and packed snacks and lunch.  I wake them up early and we get on the road.  It’s not like we haven’t done the drive before, the one to Grammy and Grampy’s.

But we haven’t done it enough.  And that’s the reality that grinding into my heart.  Though it isn’t really sudden, more like a year in the making since Grampy didn’t come home from hunting last January, it feels like it came out of no where.

As we make the hour-long drive, Rylee asks out of the blue “Why didn’t we ever walk on the trail with Grammy and Grampy?  You know, the one that goes behind their house?”.  I can almost hear my own heart break and wait to speak until I can trust that my voice will work.

“We didn’t ever find a time – it never worked out.  We figured we’d do it eventually but then…”  My words trail off and choke out because I can’t find the right ones and there are no words just tears.  Silent ones as I hold it together while the babysitter sits next to me in the van and probably wonders what on earth I’m talking about.

Grammy moved across the country last week.  The house is bare and empty when I walk in alone to feed baby Finn.  Its a shell that used to hold our family.  Our memories.  I sit on the carpet and snuggle the only baby we’ve had that he never met, never kissed, never held.

And now all I see is how the walls are white and I never noticed that before.  A view of the mountain that I swear I hadn’t fully taken in until today.  More trees for boy climbing than I remember.

We sort through the last loads of belongings and put them all where they need to go.  Kids find treasures, climb trees and go for a walk.  I just keep breathing.  Until I find something that takes my breath away, which happens more than once.  Is he really gone?  Do we really not get another chance to talk, to laugh, to eat, to love?

We don’t.  And the sting of death, of loss and of I-wish-we-would-have________, presses hard on my heart and I literally feel like I’m gasping for air.  I was sure we had dozens more Christmas Eve’s to spend there drinking endless sparkling cider and sharing gifts.  But this December someone else will live there and make those memories with their own family.  And ours will be spread out over a couple thousand miles.

Pat phrases and empty lines don’t seem to really cut it.  Chin up, press on, don’t waste your time looking back.  Can’t change the past.  Only thing you can change is the future.  Make the most of today. While they may be true, they don’t fill in the empty places.

I know its not lovely to say, but sometimes I think we’re supposed to hurt.  We’re supposed to look back and grieve that we didn’t do something just right.  That we missed a chance to love.  It’s the hurt that changes our today. We get another chance today to do life just a bit different even if we can’t go back and make yesterday better.

It truly is utterly beautiful the way it works.  God is so good, inherently, completely good in the way he orchestrates all of life.  But there are days like my Friday that force me to look hard for that truth.  And I think that’s okay.

It’s been hard to keep counting.  But even if the list is small, I’m still trying…

#473 – beautiful berries

#474 – the privilege of carrying someone else’s burden

#475 – rain and water and green everywhere…even though its supposed to be summer

#476 – today

Maybe we’re getting old…

It is a monumental task to get five kids cared for and arrange for a date night.  I know all the books say that you really need to do it every other week but for us, every other month is doing pretty good!  A few months ago we bought tickets to see our favorite musician.  It wasn’t till a month later that we figured out he was opening for another artist and wasn’t the main attraction.

That was okay with us.  His music came into our life at a critical juncture and will probably forever and always be tied in our minds with the rebuilding of our marriage and renewing of our love for one another.  So, we figured any other music that night would just be a bonus.

Last night was date night, finally.  I spent the drive there worrying about details.  Had I gone over everything, prepared it all well, forgotten any instructions?  We sat down in the theater downtown in the big city and I worried about it being earthquake safe.  I calculated how Phineas would survive without me to feed him.  I smiled nervous smiles and tried to be ‘all there’.

Then there was music.  There were words that expressed my very own heart.  My whole body could feel the sound, my whole heart could hear the words and all the worry vanished for those 45 minutes.  It was clear a large part of the crowd was there for the very young pop artist who was the ‘main event’.  We felt a bit old.  A bit over dressed.  And we were.

It’s fairly likely I was the only was with tears streaming down their face in the crowd of a couple thousand people as he sang these words:

Breathe in, breathe out,
Move on and break down,
If everyone goes away i will stay.

We push and pull,
& I fall down sometimes,
I’m not letting go,
You hold the other line.

Cause there is a light in your eyes, in your eyes.

Hold on hold tight,
From out of your sight,
If everything keeps moving on, moving on,
Hold on hold tight,
Make it through another night,
& everyday there comes a song with the dawn,
We push and pull and I fall down sometimes,
I’m not letting go,
You hold the other line.


Somehow (by Grace, really, only Grace) we’ve learned to breathe and how to hold on and how to get up.  How not to let go when one more night seems like a lot to ask.  How to love quiet and strong.  We’ve said it loud with our choices and actions, I’m not letting go.

I rested my head on his shoulder and took a deep breath.  So thankful for something to love and enjoy together.  So incredulous at the power of music and words and God to sew hearts back into one piece.

As Mat Kearney wrapped it up for the night and the next musician stepped up we were caught up in giggles watching him dance and prance and sing about butterflies and flowers and sunshine and snowflakes.  Really, snowflakes while dancing on tiptoes?  Kids around us squealed in absolute glee while we shook our heads.  After almost two songs and a whole lot of laughing, we whispered to eachother that we should go and use our time away wisely.  We found a place to sit and talk and laugh and relish the gift of time we’d been given.

And we’re learning…its the best gift.

Raspberries = best fruit in the world

Guess that’s just a matter of opinion but its truth for me.  Be they fresh picked and eaten in the fields, made into scrumptious cobbler, pureed into smoothies, frozen into sorbet or eaten over ice cream…they are my very favorite summer treat.

I was a little late posting about strawberries but here is the raspberry info BEFORE the end of the much-too-short picking season.

As I said before, our top-pick, Harvold’s in Carnation sustained large scale crop damage and will just have a handful of berries this year.  So some other good options are:

Bolles Organic Farm in Monroe.  425-875-9878 – Nice family run place.  Beautiful location.  Most expensive I’ve seen at $15 per three pound half flat but they are certainly generous on the ‘half flat’. Full force picking by next Monday he said today.

Broers Farm in Monroe. 360-794-5778 – They use natural practices but aren’t organic certified.  Berries expected end of this week or early next (around July 18-20).  Much cheaper that Bolles at $1.50 per pound.

Ebey Island farm in Everett – slim picking this year, they’ve lost a lot of their crop she said today.  But if you happen up that way, you can always call 206-390-7938 and see if they’re open.

Biringer Farms in Arlington – 425-259-0255 They expect to be in full swing with raspberries by about July 20-22 depending on weather.  We got awesome strawberries here last year but this year will be our first try with their raspberries.  Cost unknown, around $2 a pound I think.

Happy picking!

True friendship

A real friend may be mortified to walk into our mess of a kitchen and find an apple swarming with 100 ants, but she smiles and just offers to help clean up.

She also is happy to run to the store to get the salmon, for the salmon dinner we’d invited her to, when we’re running behind and haven’t had time to get it yet.

She listens to our kids tell stories and chases them around the yard and genuinely loves them, to watch you’d think they were her own nieces and nephews.  You’d never guess she isn’t married and doesn’t have her own children yet.

She jumps but doesn’t scream when the frog the sister caught for the brothers while they were away gets out of the cup and hops onto the kitchen floor.

She shares a loud and happy meal with us while the baby across from her at the table spits up all the way through dinner.  We laugh when she spills my water in our laps.

When I disappear to go feed the tired babe, she knocks gently and comes into my room so we can talk more.  She wades through dirty laundry stacked up against clean and past an overflowing trash can of dirty diapers next to the baby crib.  She sits down on my (unmade) bed and we catch up the important things.

Soon the kids find us and they tackle her on my bed and though I’m slightly embarrassed at the disorder and I am exponentially more grateful for a friend who loves well.

While kids head to bed, we take a break on the couch.  She is not alarmed when my eyes go wide and I notice a sizable crab is crawling down the hall behind her.

Thanks Jill for being you.  We are blessed to know you.

Onto the counting again for this week…

#461 – Jill

#462 – boys gone with their dad finding epic adventures all weekend long

#463 – no ER trips stemming from boys weekend

#464 – strawberry stained fingers

#465 – girl time

#466 – fresh salmon

#467 – ideas for fall and school and life

#468 – gut level honest conversations

#469 – the tiny curly tendrils on the sweetest three year old

#470 – grace for the moment

#471 – second and third chances

#472 – the routine of summer and the breath of fresh air it feels like


…are almost done but I’d been meaning to put a post up about some places we like around here in case anyone is interested.

Dues Berry Farm in Marysville: no-spray farm, small berries this year and because of our lack of sun they were not crazy sweet but still good.  Cost $1.50 a pound and they often have some pre-picked for sale at the farm stand nearby too if you go picking with your five kids 8 and under and carry one 17 pound baby in the front pack making in near impossible for you to bend down to the plants….or you know, if you just want some good berries fresh for a good price (smile).

Harvold’s Berry Farm in Carnation: they do spray fungicide on their berries here, cost is $1.00 a pound and I’ve picked here most years since I was about 6 weeks old.  Serious.  Ask my mom.  Sweetest little lady is there every year running the place.

Boelles Organic Farm in Monroe: organic, so obviously no spray/chemicals here.  Haven’t gone yet this year but might next week for fun with the littles while the bigs are at VBS.  Yes, that is honestly my idea of fun.  Don’t know the price this year here, but it is always more than others, but very nice berries.

Biringer Berry Farm in Arlington also has excellent strawberries, we picked about 20 pounds last year and bought 10 pounds more of ‘seconds’ for very cheap and quickly made them into jam.  Worth the drive.

For more ideas on where to go, I have used the pickyourown website dozens of times and found all sorts of places to go.  And instructions on what to do with all your bounty too!

Daily snapshot

This is what 4 month old baby Finn does every day…all day:

I don’t mean sit around naked in his exersaucer thing.  I mean spit up.  He can projectile his entire feeding in less than 5 seconds.

I know no one really needs to know but this is just for me, since I’ll forget the seven outfit changes for him and three for me in one day and how he and I combined are one whole wash load at the end of most days.

He obviously isn’t hurting for food.  Or concerned for my wardrobe issues.

My goodness do I love his chubby self!