Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Under the weather

I have been quite ill with a sinus infection, and have not had the inclination to write much these past few days. Not that I haven't composed a thousand things in my head, mind you. I am always writing in my head, it seems. But I have not wanted to look at the computer screen.
Also, I have two sick children at home, one with an ear infection and one with fever, cold and stomach bug.
We are all a mess. I tell you, it's been a trying season of sickness around here.
We have all been seen by medical professionals in the past two days, however, are on various medications for this and that, and I believe we are all heading for a speedy recovery.
I am sure I will be able to sit and write tomorrow.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Good News!

I talked to Gramp this afternoon and he informed me that 10 packets of seeds came in today!! Ironic, isn't it, that they come on the day it decides to snow and snow and snow some more?
Never mind that, though. I am excited, and ready to start getting seeds in the ground. This week, for sure, I will do some planting!!
We are waiting on another shipment, but I think our cold weather stuff, like carrots, peas, green beans, lettuce and spinach came in. I'll get to see what all we got when I go to Gramp's for Sunday dinner tomorrow.
Also, wanted to record Daniel's ongoing evolution in his pronunciation of "ketchup and mustard," which he eats with lots of stuff and so asks for often.
At dinner this evening, it was "shup and mum-etch," for his fries. I like this one. It makes me smile.
Here he is. . . wearing a little!

Old man winter has NOT left the building

Well, I heard it, but scarce believed it.
They were predicting snow for this weekend, but when I woke up to warmish temps and rain, I thought, well, it must have passed us by. Maybe old man Winter left gracefully after all.
Turns out, he hasn't.
He will go kicking and screaming, it seems.
His frosty fingers have caught Spring in his snowy, icy grasp, one last time.
Tomorrow, however, he will be sorry.
Sunny skies and temps in the mid-50s will send his sorry bum packing, and quick. Hopefully, for good this time.
But for now, this is what it looks like outside. . .
The big boys are on a date with dad this snowy Saturday afternoon. They went to see a movie . . . Monsters vs Aliens, or some such thing. It is the perfect kind of day for an outing with dad.
Daniel and I are watching the snow fall outside through the window, and playing with socks. You never know what he'll find interesting! We are relaxing.
We had a busy week.
It was hard, readjusting to school and activities after such a nice break the week before last. But, we are back in the swing of things.
We received our grain mill in the post this week. Joe got one from e-bay. We have a bucket of wheat berries that we can now grind into flour, or something like it, anyway. The mill leaves the grain a bit coarse, I think. We are going to try grinding corn too, to see what that is like.
Here are Joe and Daniel, trying out the new mill.
So far, this post has been a bit random.
In keeping with that spirit, here are some cute things Daniel has been saying these days.
Yesterday, he asked for "petch 'n munst-a" with this chicken nuggets (An old acquaintance reminded me in a note today that Josiah used to call chicken nuggets, "chicken nuts").
And when we were done praying for dinner, he yelled out "A-ben!"
He is too funny, and definitely too cute.
Josiah's birthday is right around the corner. He will be seven.
Where does the time go? The question I find myself asking a lot these days is, am I making the most of it? Time, I mean. And my life.
Am I savoring the time? Or am I wishing it away, rushing it along, not noticing things I should as they blur by me?
Am I living every moment, or just passing time?
I don't want to pass the moments. I want to stop. To live in them. To notice them and every commonly holy thing, every beautiful person in them.
There is so much for me to do this afternoon: laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the boys room, the bathrooms, my bedroom. These tasks all need to be done. And I will do them.
And I will watch the snow fall. I will play "socks" with my son. I will wait with anticipation for Joe and the boys to come home, full of stories and wanting to recount every scene of the movie back to me. I will look them in their wide eyes while they are talking to me. And watch their mouths form the words. I will laugh and ask questions.
I will love every moment of it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chicken and dumplings for the soul

Yesterday, we woke to torrential rain and rolling thunder.
It down-poured all morning, and when I walked out of my classroom in the afternoon, I was surprised to see the most brilliant blue sky and the sun, shinning on the still wet pavement. It was warmer that it had been earlier in the day, but cooler than it has been in a while. There was an early Spring chill in the air that was reminiscent of New Jersey springs of my childhood.
It was the perfect weather for a large pot of chicken and dumplings. Joe prepared the chicken and veggies before I got home from school, and then I made and added the dumplings (which, for some reason, either clumped up with each other or completely disintegrated into the stock, making a nice, creamy soup, but reducing the number of dumplings in the pot!).
I quickly made some biscuits to take the place of the dumplings and called it good.
And it was.
It was so warm and tasty, with lots of chunky veggies and tender chicken. Spooned over the biscuits, it was the perfect meal for a day like yesterday.
Isaac had several helpings.
After dinner, it was nice enough for the boys and Joe and David to do some work in the yard.
I spent some time plotting out our garden on paper and researching organic pesticides and vermin repellents. I think one thing I will do is plant marigolds around the perimeter of my beds. I may try some catnip too. Tigger and Tiger will love that! I have read that rabbits do not.
I talked to my friend Sandy today, also, about gardening. I am learning things by the minute, it seems. Remember, I have never done this before. This is a maiden voyage, if you will, of gardening for us.
Today, I learned that you plant melons in mounds. Fascinating.
I am not too uptight about how things turn out this year. While I want to be successful and reap a bountiful harvest, I know that this year is the learning curve for me. Some things will turn out and some things may not. I am okay with this, as long as I can learn from my mistakes and do it better next time.
I am very anxious, however, to receive our seeds. We called the seed company and they said they would be sending them out this week. If there is nothing by Friday, I will call again.
We have some time planned out on Sunday to do a little work in the garden with the Brooks, but we'll have to see. Snow is in the forcast for Saturday, and a friend was telling me today that it may be quite a bit of snow.
Today is a beautiful day, but a bit on the cooler side.
Daniel loves to see the pre-schoolers on our way to class. If the day is nice, they are outside playing int he play-yard. He always stops to play. Today, they were blowing bubbles. He participated in the fun until all the kids were picked up.
Later, during class, he brought me a black marker and said, "dis black." Shocked that he would know that, I picked up a red marker and asked, "what color is this?"
"Um, red!" he yelled.
"Very good!!" I said, in amazement.
He looked at me and asked "Pink?" and shrugged his shoulders.
Who knew he knew this stuff. I have not been going over colors with him.
Never underestimate the power of Blue's Clues!
I am not looking forward to the cold weather predicted for this weekend, but I say, bring it on . . . we have leftover chicken and dumplings!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Back at it

This morning, 6 o'clock came way too early!
When I went in to wake up the boys, I tousseled Josiah's hair and said, "C'mon, bud. Time to get up! It's a school day."
I had to do this several times, and on my final, "let's go, Jo, we have to get up now," when he finally began to stir, he said, in a rather sleepy voice as he rubbed his eyes, "Can I get the dust out of my eyes?"
It was so cute. I had to laugh.
And so, it was on with our day.
Dressing and breakfasting and getting gym clothes and bags ready to head out the door.
Kissing dad good-bye and driving through the windy, misty morning to the school.
And in the car, on the way to school, I found myself praying, "God, help me get the dust out of my eyes today."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The first day of Spring, the last day of Spring Break, and a day to remember

Very Early Spring
by Katherine Mansfield

The fields are snowbound no longer;
There are little blue lakes and flags of tenderest green.
The snow has been caught up into the sky--
So many white clouds--and the blue of the sky is cold.
Now the sun walks in the forest,
He touches the bows and stems with his golden fingers;
They shiver, and wake from slumber.
Over the barren branches he shakes his yellow curls.
Yet is the forest full of the sound of tears....
A wind dances over the fields.
Shrill and clear the sound of her waking laughter,
Yet the little blue lakes tremble;
And the flags of tenderest green bend and quiver.

It was the first day of Spring on Friday.
Mostly cloudy and damp, with a cold rain coming on in the afternoon, it paled in comparison to the days preceding it.
All through the beginning of this week, the weather was simply gorgeous. Blue skies and breezes and sunshine. Warm temps, and on one day, it was almost hot.
We were giddy with it, the boys and I.
Drunk from the smell of warm, damp dirt, green grass, blooming buds.
We were outside every moment it was possible to be there.
This week has been full of hard work and even harder play, and I can't believe it is almost over.
Yes, tonight is our last Spring Break night.
There was a freedom to our days, an easy embracing of things we had to do and things we wanted to do, which we will be hard pressed to part with come Monday morning.
On Thursday, my mom, the boys, one of their friends and I went on an adventure.
The weather was a bit cooler than it had been the three days before, but the sun was shinning brightly, beckoning us out and about for a much needed day of play.
We packed up the car and headed out of town in the morning.
Our first stop, and an impromptu one at that, was at a museum in Galena that is housed in an old train depot. It holds much history of the town and its surrounding areas. We stayed there for a bit, looking at all the relics and listening to the elderly man and woman who were working there tell stories of how various pieces ended up at the museum, or what certain things were and how they worked. They answered any questions we had. The boys got a few Kodak moments in, and we were off -- but not too far.
By then, we were ready for lunch, but not being too familiar with the area, we decided to eat at a local cafe right next door to the museum that looked more like a tin box than a restaurant. But hey, Guy Fieri swears that some of the best places to eat in America are Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, so we gave it a try and hoped this place would be worthy of a spot on his popular t.v. show.
We walked in to one large room that had two unoccupied booths against one wall which comprised the "non-smoking section", and the entire rest of the room was dotted with people eating, smoking, and in some cases, eating while smoking.
I was pretty sure there were some codes being violated, but the food did look good, and we really had not seen anywhere else to eat (except a Sonic up the road, but that's not very exotic, and we were on an adventure, here!).
There was no name on the outside of the establishment, but the top of the menu read "Pickle Jeans Cafe."
We ordered, and after a short wait, had delicious lunches in front of us.
After we ate, it was off to the nature park.
The last time we were at that park, my dad was with us.
We pulled in and parked and got out of the car, and as soon as I saw the rocky beach of the river, I could see my dad, hood up against the biting wind of that long ago day, bending down to search the shallow for rocks and shells he thought my mom would like.
I stood for a long moment, my stomach twisting inside me, tears stinging my eyes, hoping against hope that I could close my eyes and open them again, and he would be there, grinning at me, holding up a treasure he was patient to find.
It was hard to let go of that moment, but my kids were running down to the river bank, and I ran down with them.
We spent our time there looking at nature, gathering rocks and shells. The boys played war among the trees and tall grasses. They got to explore a bat cave, too. Daniel played on the playground for a while. He loves to slide down the slide, and the bigger and twistier, the better. Sometimes, I think he's going to give me a heart attack!! Then, he got to take it easy and ride. He napped in peace out in the fresh air.

At one point, Josiah looked up at my mom and sighed, "This is a day to remember . . ."
There is a building there, high up on a hill, that looks out over the whole park. You can bird watch there, or look at the displays and books and live animals they have.
We had fun looking at all the stuff and talking to the two women who volunteer their time to open the place up and make it available to the public.
As the afternoon went on, we decided we needed to head home if we were going to make it in time for family dinner -- and we had to make it. I was cooking that evening.
On the way home, we stopped at another little gem of a place on what was old Rt. 66 (this place is actually briefly featured in the special features of the Disney Pixar movie, Cars).
It is a charming deli/grocery/souvenir shop and it has lots of Rt. 66 paraphernalia.
When I walked in, I got such a warm, old-timey feeling. I wanted to move right in!
Instead, I bought some seeds for my garden and we got some snacks to sustain us on our drive home, and we were off.
When we got home, we told Joe all about the day, and showed him the pictures of our adventures.
Our pleasant reunion was interrupted by a man with a bulldozer, who came to our door to inform us that the person who bought the property behind us was wanting to take the row of blackberry bushes that line the back of our property down so he can build a fence for his horses.
I was appalled. I do not want to lose those bushes! But Joe, ever the diplomat, talked to him and expressed our strong desire to keep the bushes where they are. He was also clear, however, that he did not want to and would not argue with our neighbor over bushes.
That was two days ago, and, as of today the bushes remain.
Later, at my mom's, I made pasta e fagoli and steak with a salad.
Grandpa, God bless him, made a coconut custard pie! Yum.
I have broken my Lenten fast too many times this week. I always had a good reason, but I am trying to teach my boys that reasons are not excuses, and so, I will endeavor to do better next week.
Yesterday, we left the boys with my mom, and Joe and I went out of town with our Pastor, Doug, and his wife, Denise, to edit a book Doug wrote about God's plan of legacy in the church. It is titled The Lost Treasure: Reclaiming the Inheritance of the Church. We had a wonderful time together, and I feel like, in working on this book, I have been a part of something so significant and integral to this important, foundational Kingdom principle of legacy being released into the earth. I know that reading over the manuscript as we were editing it, the material pierced my heart again over issues of legacy.
As I sit and reflect over the past few days, the words of Josiah come back to me . . . "This is a day to remember . . . "
I hope he does.
I hope they all remember every golden moment of these growing up years.
That is the reason I do this -- write this blog and stick in lots of pictures.
I write so they will remember.
So I will.
Here are some pictures from the day that I like:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The good earth

In the past few days, I have, perhaps, worked harder than I ever have in my entire life.

I have been readying my garden for planting.

It is quite a task.

Clipping, pulling, raking, loading, hauling. Clipping, pulling, raking, loading, hauling. And when it seems like you cannot possibly move another inch, there is more of the same where that came from.

And when you think you want to lay down right there on the spot and sleep forever and a day, you keep going. You just keep going.

Every muscle, every sinew, every fiber of my being aches and groans with pains I have never felt in my . . . well, 30-some odd years of living on this earth.


It is under my nails, in my shoes, in my clothes, tracked in on my floor.


It is in my dreams. It is settling in my heart.

I can see how the land gets into a person.

How they can love it so much.

When you are down there, on your knees, the warm smell of damp dirt filling your nostrils, sweat from your brow mingling in, earth clinging to your face, arms, legs; when you are running your hands through it, carefully weeding it, hoping it will return the favor of tender care and yield good things that will sustain you and those you love, you can see it.

As much hard work as it is, I find I enjoy it.

I am learning about myself a little more -- what I can do, which is more than I thought.

My boys have been helping me out there. They have been pulling and raking and lifting and hauling right with me. Hopefully, they are learning that hard work is good and good for them, and in the end, there is always a reward.

So, that has been what we have been doing with most of our time.

We have had lots of visits with friends, it seems, in the midst of all this work.

Monday afternoon, friends from out of town stopped by for a few hours, and chatted with us awhile.

Monday night we went out to Rachel’s for dinner. Before we ate, we visited with the animals.

The baby goats are delightful. Really, so cute and soft and clean at their young age. I can see why they call them kids. They sound like human children when they are bleating.

And we took some time to say hi to Snickerdoodle the cow; Blueberry, the donkey; Hedi, the goat; and numerous rabbits, dogs and cats, too many to mention in full here (plus, I can’t remember all the names!).

The horses, Tia and Scout, were being anti-social, and would not trot to the fence to say how-do-you-do. They looked on, uninterested, while they grazed beneath the setting sun.

It was good to catch up with Kevin and Rachel, and we had a killer potato soup left over from a hunt the day before. I must have the recipe.

Yesterday was St. Patty’s day.

I saw green all day. Green grass, green weeds, etc.

We did have time for a good ol’ meal of corned beef and cabbage, shared with mom and gramp and patty and Bekah and her kids.

It was our second annual Irish dinner together.

We decided Audry is Daniel's perfect match after she licked the glass door. They can be gross, together!

Today brought with it more yard work. Bekah came over with the kids and helped clear one of the veggie beds. When you work with friends, the labor doesn't seem as hard somehow.

Here are some pictures taken from Josiah’s perspective. He had the camera today. Isaac wondered if Josiah would grow up to be a photographer.

It could be. We just don’t know, yet . . .

Daniel has been a trooper, but today, he just couldn't take it anymore. He found a quiet spot in front of the couch and fell asleep.

Tomorrow, we are taking a break – breaking away.

If it is nice, we will visit a nearby nature park with MeMe and a friend of the boys.

If not, and weather is threatening, then . . . we'll see . . .

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The best kind of day

(I posted this on Saturday, and when I tried to add pics, it got sent to drafts. I'm not sure why this happened. Sorry. I will try to add pics again. Have lots to write about these first days of Spring Break. Will write tonight, after our St. Patty's Day celebration. Happy St. Patty's Day, by the way. Are you wearing green?)

Breakfast with good, good friends.
That's how this day began.
Frantic readying for an afternoon wedding.
That came next.
Watching someone dear to our heart marry the love of her life.
Everything changed for her, for them, in a matter of an hour.
Beautiful ceremony, meaningful words, perfect kiss.
Now they are one.
At the reception, talking to friends; catching up with far friends and near friends, laughing, crying, eating, talking some more.
The afternoon wore on.
Now, home to our sick little Daniel, who seems to be having a slow recovery (still a fever yesterday). I missed him so much while we were away from him.
Sun sets out the window, boys read on the couch, Daniel is resting.
I am a lot happy, and a little sad.
Weddings. They do it to me every time.
I sit, watching the sun sinking beneath the horizon, the night coming on, and revisit the day.
A beautiful exchange; a perfect moment in time.
And the road ahead is so different from this fairy tale beginning, so hard sometimes. But I want this shinning time for them to last and last and last.
I hope for them. I wish upon the first star.
I ask Jesus to be with them.
I pray the blessings of God on their lives, on their home, on their family to be, their future.
Congratulations, Jeff and Nicole.
All the best.

Ready for a wedding.

Mr. and Mrs. J!!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spring break has sprung!!

Today is the first official day of Spring Break '09, and, true to recent tradition, it is a cold and cloudy day!!!
Of course, we will be in today anyway because Daniel is still recovering from pneumonia, ear infection and a possible bout of strep throat (they couldn't get the swab down the poor baby's throat! Ah, the joys of going to the doctor's office with a child who is terrified of said doctor).
Our plans for spring break include spring cleaning the house, getting the yard prepped for planting and ready for spring activities, and a few day-trip adventures with MeMe and Cousin Patty, respectively.
Spring cleaning will be easier with mom's little helper on hand.
Tomorrow morning, we will have breakfast with our good, good friend who has moved away from us, and her husband, who is now a good friend too. She is in town to sing at our pastor's eldest daughter's wedding, which we will also attend.
Monday evening we have plans to have dinner at the ranch with Rachel and Kevin. She has some kids (baby goats, not kid kids) and the boys are looking forward to meeting them. I am looking forward to spending time with Rachel and Kevin. It's been a while . . .
Other than that, the agenda is to get the kids well so we do not have to keep battling these illnesses every several weeks or so, which is literally what has been happening.
The boys got home from school yesterday ready for the break. Here they are, celebrating getting to play a game on the Wii on a Thursday night -- a rare treat! Usually, video games are only enjoyed on Saturdays in our house.
Last night, we had family dinner here. Grandpa made a delish Italian pot roast with egg noodles and corn on the cob. He's amazing, that grandpa! Christian joined us. We got to touch base and catch up on what is happening in her life. We have been missing her at our family table. It was good to have you, Christian.
Daniel, ever on a quest to get into the great outdoors, settled for playing with Tigger through the window.
Today, plans include a pottery wheel, a special lunch with dad for Josiah, and The Return of the King.
Sound interesting? Check back later for updates!
As I finish writing this entry, I look up, out the double doors that look into the courtyard, and what do I see? It is snowing!! Big, white flakes, falling. Happy Spring Break.