All in the family

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!

Finn getting ready to take on the show ring with the Tiny Tots
Audrey getting Little Su ready
Finn and Kodiak
Audrey and Little Su in the ring
Finn showing Kodiak
Finn with the (lovely) judge
Kyler with Posey
Caleb with Wyatt
Rylee with Blanchette
the lineup!
lovin' us some cousins who came to watch!
our little goat show-girl
the fantastic Finn
sweetest Kyler face ever
going for a sno-cone run
taking a snooze wearing his show ribbon - hard work wrangling goats when you're two!

Facing fear

It had to happen sometime, the crumbling.  We wear brave faces when we must, we smile at our kids because sometimes seeing our fear would undo them.  We have to be the pillar sometimes, not a puddled mess on the floor.  I wait to cry until after the anesthesia takes over and he is asleep and he won’t feel the drip of my eyes on his warm head.  I write a couple dozen thank you cards with a real pen and paper and we take turns distracting each other while we wait.

This is so much more than I bargained for.  When he sliced his hand last week we almost didn’t go in, the bleeding stopped after a while.  The tender-hearted, mercy giving one quietly asked her daddy for help reaching a rag box so she could mop up the blood on the floor.  But when I realized he lacked movement in one finger and on his writing, favored hand at that, we knew we had no choice of staying home.  Indeed the tendon was severed and surgery was required.  I pictured a quick “stitch and back together” sort of thing.  Not so.  Hands are so intricate and delicate and tendons do amazing things, stretch great lengths and thus retract great lengths as well.

It was no “we’ll just numb it and whip it back together” kind of fix.  It was general anesthesia and two hours of surgery.  It was an incision from finger tip to palm and incredible expertise to thread and reattach the tendon that gives movement, life to the finger.  It is a full cast from shoulder to fingertip and no use of the entire right arm.  For 6 weeks, straight into the first month of school.  And even after that there is the re-learning of things which will take time after so long of not being used.

Four days post-surgery (yes, that’s just yesterday…) the wheels starting turning.  The thinking got bigger, broader and the questions harder.  The tail-end-of-pregnancy hormones took over.  Before I knew it, I felt the grip of fear like I’ve rarely known.  The what-if’s that I normally keep at bay filled my mind.  I was months down the road in my mind and every possible worry was laid out clear and disastrous and seemingly certain.

The brave mama face had worn off.  The reality of how the hard things, the unexpected things, the terrifying things that will all intersect in some way with the lives of the children I love so unabashedly was crystal clear.  And it made me shudder.  It made my heart weak and my face pale.  Of course I know this but it’s a whole other thing to watch it.  The magnitude of my smallness and my complete lack of control of the outcomes, the choices – it overwhelmed me entirely.

I wrote to a friend just a few short words “100% bonafide wreck”.  That summed it all up pretty well.  Then I proceeded to take some very deep breaths.  And I read the Psalms because if that doesn’t calm a heart right down I don’t know what will.  And then I made a new list.  Not the list of 101 reasons why I should freak out and worry about everything (already made that one…).  This one, just for today:

  • just think about today
  • do not think about school or baby or what if the surgery didn’t work or how will I have a newborn, a son who needs lots of extra help and three other children to teach – don’t do it.
  • make chocolate zucchini muffins and put in extra honey
  • relish the help from the Tuckers who offered to get the goats all trimmed and lovely for the fair (which is in two days, but don’t think about that because it’s not today)
  • eat Beet Borsch soup that Selma brought, eat all you want and don’t share it with the kids, its too good
  • find a steam carpet cleaner to borrow (always needed after potty training weeks)
  • finish goats posters with Nana
  • find more clothes Caleb can wear over his cast
  • smile at least once
  • hug each of my children

Besides the carpet cleaner, I did exactly those things.  Not much more except I managed to laugh at Finn and his take-all-his-clothes-off in the backyard thing he has going on because after he was sans-clothing, he tried to swing and it didn’t work out too well.  I sat in my bed and read to my boys (reading is Caleb’s favorite thing ever and it’s harder than you’d think to hold a book and turn pages with one hand).  I gave everyone way too much maple syrup on their peaches and yogurt dessert.

Tomorrow will get its own list.  And it will be reasonable and kind.  There will be more deep breaths and more grace to give and more hugs and probably more maple syrup.  But first there will be a soft brown book open in my favorite chair because I have to ground my heart in the One who never changes, never fails.  It doesn’t have to make sense to me, he sees and he knows.

I will trust in You, You’ve never failed before….I’m giving you fear and you give me faith.  I’m giving you doubt you give me grace.    -‘Help me Find It’ by Sidewalk Prophets


At the mercy of others

Perhaps this is a theme for my year, I wrote this post on the matter just a couple of months ago.  My intrinsic, God-given wiring and strength is being a giver of mercy and compassion.  But being the one who needs help is hard for me.  I delight in making food for people who are sick or sad or hurting.  It brings me great joy to see a need and be able to meet it.  I just mailed a package to a precious friend in Chile and my imagining her receiving it brings me a smile, many times a day.  I love standing in my kitchen making the perfect blueberry pancakes because I know everyone in this house thinks they’re the best ever.

Also deeply woven into the fabric that is me is the heart of a mother.  Ten years and counting and my heart is less mine all the time.  When things crumbled a bit here over the past few days and life unraveled more than a little, I wrote to a couple of friends:

I feel like such an inadequate mother.

I had all the reasons why I was.  If only I’d been in the right place at the right time and done just the right thing and kept everyone perfectly safe and unharmed and so on – then it would have turned out differently.  While I sat at home waiting for text updates from the ER, madly cleaning the kitchen, because what else could I do, I made a long list of “if….then” statements.  The more I came up with the more in a quiet frenzy I was – I am the wrong one, I’m not qualified to do this, look at how I’ve failed.  As my silent panic grew, our pastor called, it was late and I was outside in the dark checking on animals.  He couldn’t have known that my mind needed a holy interruption so desperately.

He asked if he could go sit with Chris or if his wife should come over and I tried to talk without wavering but had little success.  I spouted the lies that had seeped in so fast and spoke them as if all of me believed them to be true because at that moment, they felt true.  He wasted no time, he said no, not true and spoke fervent truth over the garbage in my head.  And it washed away.  It did.  It simply could not stay.

I whispered thank you, promised to call if I needed help.  I tucked one more kid in bed.  Again.  I pulled the most worried one out of bed to sit with me and wait.  She finally fell asleep so I got to work preparing middle-of-the-night dinner for the early morning return of my beloved and my eldest son.  I could breathe again once I hugged them both.  Still a host of unknowns and wait-for-the-appointment-after-the-weekend but at least we were all under one roof.  There is something I love about that, something that always brings a level of peace to my heart.

All my ducks were in a row this week.  I organized a blueberry picking trip then a picnic following at our home.  I scheduled a fall checkup for the van before the baby came and the months of rain too.  I booked well-child visits with our family doctor for our kids that needed them.  I wrote “goat clipping” one night, a midwife appointment another evening and filled in all these lovely aspirations from my to-do list.  I was going to plan a months worth of meals for September.  I felt pleased as punch that we would get all this done before the fair and before the baby and before school.

Then in one fell swoop, one poor choice, one moment…the course of our week (our month, our autumn) changed and doctor visits were cancelled, new ones were made, the van will need to keep running happily without maintenance, the goats are still furry and we had to tell everyone the berry picking fun was off.  Suddenly, there were no ducks in a row, not even any ducks to be seen.

And here I am, in this place where I need to be held up instead of my much preferred spot of doing the holding.  I say yes to help with kids, runs to the store and all sorts of things because I can’t do it by myself.  I’m not meant to.  And if I try to, not only do I lose but I steal the delight, the blessing of everyone who WANTS to help, to love, to serve by not giving them a chance to.

The gut-wrenching truth that I may spend the rest of my life learning is that I can’t control the outcomes of my kids’ choices.  I can love them with everything I am.  I can teach them all sorts of wonderful things.  I can provide a safe place for them to be who they are and pursue their interests and passions.  But they will have to learn on their own the hard stuff of life.  It will probably break my heart.  More than once.

All I could hope or ask for is that in those places that hurt, that disappoint, that discourage and leave them feeling a little bit lost…that they would see and hear and sense the voice of the One who loves them like none other, in their midst.

Daddy/son/cousin campout

I found some pictures that weren’t on my camera that I can share…in keeping with tradition, Chris took the (big) boys camping with our brother-in-law and his son.  The boy cousins had a blast (and so did the daddies).

Caleb climbing a very cool sideways tree they found near the lake.
Caleb climbing a very cool sideways tree they found near the lake.
brothers floating on logs at sunset
brothers floating on logs at sunset
Hiking at Hidden Lake
Hiking at Hidden Lake
These have to be this ones very favorite days - he loves all of nature more than any boys his age I've ever met.
These have to be this one’s very favorite days – he loves all of nature more than any boys his age I’ve ever met.
morning whittling session while the dad's made coffee
morning whittling session while the dad’s made coffee
sunset swim
caleb at lk wen

Next year the girls get in on the fun, one night camping for the boy cousins and one night for the girls, sounds like a great plan!





Summer days…

We dove deep straight in when summer arrived and this has to be one of the nicest summers the Northwest has ever seen.  I make no apologies for being so off on the blogging front!  Our summer bucket list has more checked off than not and many times I left the camera home simply to force myself to sit and do nothing instead of try to capture the perfect moments.  But here are a few glimpses…

Sometimes we played so hard we wound up in time out but were too tired to stay awake there...
Sometimes we played so hard we wound up in time out but were too tired to stay awake there…
Finn has taken quite grandly to tree climbing, which if you know him at all, is no surprise. This tree is “his”.
Finn and daddy at our first fair of summer
Finn and daddy at our first fair of summer.
I almost deemed myself "too pregnant" to learn this new skill, but it worked out that I needed to go for it.  So, belly and all, we clipped the goats, just in time for fair.
I almost deemed myself “too pregnant” to learn this new skill, but it worked out that I needed to go for it. So, belly and all, we clipped the goats, just in time for fair.
Audrey was determined to show Finn how to ride on her bike, but she pretty much ended up pulling him down the road.  Super sweet.
Audrey was determined to show Finn how to ride on her bike, but she pretty much ended up pulling him down the road. Super sweet.
At 2 1/2, he's decided to be all done with's been almost three years since we potty trained...not a favorite parenting activity!
At 2 1/2, he’s decided to be all done with diapers…it’s been almost three years since we potty trained…not a favorite parenting activity!



Once I find the camera cord I’ll share more.  Meanwhile, we’ll fill the pool up again and soak up one more day of sun!