Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Friday night Rory evaporated our first 15 gallons of sap. Sunday afternoon he went for 20, and during the last five gallons it started sleeting on him. He came inside to watch the fire from the warmth of the living room and watched the syrup unexpectedly catch on fire and burn to char. I asked to take a picture, but he said he wasn't in the mood.
Last night he evaporated another 15 gallons, building the fire at 8:30. It was 12:30 when my sweet husband came to bed smelling like a lovely night of camping. We have rain and snow in the forecast, but sap has a shelf life and can go bad if you don't evaporate it within a certain window of time. We're down to the final fifteen gallons and I look forward to having maple syrup to put in my coffee again (so good...)
I decided to write this post though because of the conversation we just shared. It's 11:00. I am speaking for our women's bible study tomorrow morning and finishing up my talk. Rory is on the couch next to me mapping out a planting schedule and when each vegetable should go in the soil. And here's what's noteworthy: he's feeling frustrated because he's already behind. Which I think is endearing because he planted seeds five weeks ago. And there is snow forecasted for tomorrow. But he's frustrated because we should have had sweet potatoes sprouting in peat moss one month ago.
He's a hard worker, people. And fun to watch work.
Posted by Becca Groves at Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Saturday, April 12, 2014
+ The kids got to ride in the truck with us as we hauled a few loads of branches from the ditch out to the burn pile. Riding with no car seats through the field was pretty epic for them.
+ Ivar has become quite the helper lately. Here he was helping his dad remove the hay from the raised beds where Rory planted a lot of tulip bulbs last spring.
+ We had another great season for sap. We got 65 gallons this year, and have a garage full of five gallon buckets ready to turn into syrup. Rory is in full-on evaporator mode, already having boiled down his first fifteen gallons last night.
+ Thomas and Percy are adorable. Their little eyes always look sad, but I think that's just how kitten eyes look. They're tumbling out of their cat bed and beginning to walk around. They are so cute and make for a sweet way to welcome anyone who walks through our garage.
+ Our little seeds have been growing in mighty ways under the grow lights. We won't plant in egg cartons again...they seem to absorb so much of the water, it's hard to keep the little seeds properly watered. So we ordered a ton of plastic containers for the next round.
+ Our cats, Velma and Vernon are frisky as ever. We will have them both fixed at the end of the month so we don't turn into a cat farm. The way they tumble around the yard, I'm pretty sure we'd have another litter mid-summer!
+ Ivar has been very interested in the chickens lately. He brings them little dixie cups of cracked corn each morning and on this day threw them his yellow ball. He was a little sad that they didn't really play with it, or throw it back over the fence.
+ We had a picnic on Friday. Second of the season. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: parenting outdoors just feels like cheating. Lunch is lovely while eaten outside. I read a book while the kids played in the rock box. Elsie likes to sit in the baby swing, without being pushed. It was a stunning, quiet and warm morning.
Posted by Becca Groves at Saturday, April 12, 2014
Friday, April 11, 2014
I feel like I have to write fast. I feel like you're going to disregard this post from the start.You know the five love languages. You know your own love language. You know your husbands. You have read the book before. Besides, the five love languages are so 1990's.
But wait! Hear me out!
Rory brought this book along to Arizona and actually said, "hey, aren't you proud I brought a marriage book on our vacation?" And I was like, "yeah, thanks for that."
Because inside I was scoffing. I mean, who doesn't know the five love languages, and the seventeen spin off books by now? Rory and I took a class when we were first married so we know them well: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch.
Rory was the one who read the book first on our vacation and then said, "you should just read the first three introductory chapters. They're short."
And people. This is good stuff. It's a bit surprising because the five love languages are so seemingly self explanatory. I mean, who can't figure out what "quality time" means. Except here's the thing: I read that chapter and had a zillion aha moments and realized that I had quality time all mixed up. I read this chapter and realized I am dying for quality time. But before reading the book I would have said I wanted "acts of service" because lately a surprise unloaded dishwasher can get me quite excited.
Anyway. Dig this book out. The content inside is really, really helpful and practical. If you have it on your shelf, dust it off and take a look again. Go to your library and check it out. It is immediately applicable, clarifying and led to some awesome conversations about our day to day marriage and how we want it to look and feel.
Posted by Becca Groves at Friday, April 11, 2014
Thursday, April 10, 2014
The day after my birthday I was sitting in the sunny room while my kids napped. I watched the UPS truck pull up and I went to meet the driver in the garage and wouldn't you know, the package was for me. I opened it up and it was this book, given as a gift from my friend Shannon. Is there anything better than an unexpected gift in the mail?!!
The book is a memoir spanning three years before the author's firstborn goes off to college. She's in the midst of a midlife crisis, looking for her purpose apart from motherhood and making major life changes along the way. She is an eloquent writer, painting her life in brilliant detail, taking us all along for the ride.
A lot of the time while I read this book I had an ache in my heart remembering the truth of what so many older mothers love to remind us moms with little ones: it goes so fast.
So it was a perfect book to read poolside, child-free, while sun bathing and sipping a cherry coke. I read it and thought of the sweet pocket of time I find myself in these days. My kids are awesome, they are so fun. They are determined, hilarious and good company. And I am enjoying my gig as their mom so much. I feel content and grateful.
The book was great. A lovely read, and fun to walk the steps of her life during those huge years of transition. My worldview doesn't line up with hers. And I would have loved to have read of her journey from the perspective of a Christ-follower who believes in a God who makes all things new. But she is an incredible writer, thoughtful and attentive to her life in ways that open the reader's heart along the way.
It's a great book to help keep the long-view in mind. To not get so bogged down in the day to day. Often, my biggest lament to Rory when we crawl into bed is, "I have nothing to show for my day." And after reading this book, I'm not sure I ever will if I continue to measure against an outside immeasurable standard. But if I look a recent ordinary day: kids dressed and to the library, followed by an impulsive trip to the cupcake shop, home for lunch and naps, dishwasher unloaded and loaded, kitchen floor swept and living room floor picked up, a long walk outside with the kids, hamburger helper for supper, bedtime routine, snuggles and just as I walk out the door one last plea, "hey mom?" "yes?" "will you just come and snuggle with me?" "I just did that." "hey mom?" "yes?" "will you come and lay down next to me?"
If I look at this ordinary day, written out bit by bit, I can see a bit clearer. This book reminded me that even in this simple, mundane routine, I have a whole lot to show for my day. They're growing up right before my very eyes.
I read this book in the happiest of places, convinced that I would come home and live out my ordinary days with the unending joy they deserve. But in an ironic (and probably predictable) twist, the kids are really sticking it to me today. They're making sure I feel the pain of having just left them for four nights. They're both super needy, super crabby, super impatient. And the house is a post-vacation train wreck. I turned off Ivar's lamp at naptime and proceeded to step on a minion followed in the next step right onto a hard red parrot. Both feet! I limped out of his room biting my tongue with each hobble. I was so mad.
So there's that too. The gift of an ordinary day is truly a gift. This book helped me remember that, even in the midst of minions and red parrots.
Posted by Becca Groves at Thursday, April 10, 2014
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Back in January, when Rory and I were in Orlando for our three nights of fun, I ended our trip with a bit of a meltdown. Which might be the mild way of saying that I cried hot tears through the evening fireworks show at Epcot. Not because they were beautiful or I was moved. But because I was angry and, in retrospect, exhausted and coming off of a serious sugar crash after eating my first Cronut.
Anyway, it was one for the record books. We had a great day all day long, but the sun had gone down while we were in the Nemo ride. And suddenly the fact that we were flying home in the morning hit me like a ton of bricks. There was so much we were supposed to have accomplished on that trip. Lots of topics we had said, “we’ll talk through in Orlando.” But the two days came and went, we played hard and suddenly our trip was coming to a close and I panicked because I still had a laundry list of things I wanted to connect on.
Instead of rationally bringing this up to my husband, in my cronut-crazy state of mind I got all mopey and dumb and lame. And botched the whole evening. I believe the high point of the melt down was when I cried, “we haven’t even talked about when we’re going to have our next baby!” And Rory replied exasperated, “This moment is not helping us get any closer to that happening…”
Which is sort of hilarious now. (And for the record, we're not planning any babies for a while here yet...) The meltdown was epic. One that will not-be-soon (actually, never be) forgotten.
And also for the record, the cronut is over-hyped. Either get a doughnut or a croissant. But don’t get both at the same time. It's too much. And you might end up loosing your mind on your husband when you come off all that sugar.
We overdid it at Disney. It was fun to play. It was fun to be kid free. It really was super fun. But it left us both wanting a vacation, after our vacation.
So we started planning another trip. We’re in a sweet pocket of time right now with little kids that are old enough to enjoy a few days with each set of grandparents. And we're taking great advantage of this fact.
The plan for this trip was simple: lay low. No agenda. I told Rory when the airplane landed in Arizona that my personal goal was to be attune to my own napping schedule, no one else’s.
So we just spent four nights in Scottsdale. It was lovely and in the upper 80’s, lower 90’s each day. I read one and a half books, did not get a burn and enjoyed the good company of my husband. We hiked one morning, met up with friends for dinner one night, and visited Rory's old youth pastor for church on Sunday morning. But other than that, we were poolside, drinking cherry cokes. And the books I read greatly shaped our conversation and our time together. I'll write about those next.
Posted by Becca Groves at Wednesday, April 09, 2014
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
I woke up yesterday feeling the need to do something for April Fools day. And thanks to a quick google search found this funny trick: making "juice" out of jello.
Ivar helped me make the jello, put a straw in each jar and watched as I put the jello in the fridge. A few hours later, after nap time, he asked for his juice. And when he took his first big sip through his straw he was horrified, "Oh no! My juice won't come up!" Which means either this was an awesome April Fools joke or simply Jello 101 for my son.
Later the real April Fools joke came waddling into the living room in the form of a jello covered Elsie. Rory had given our one-year-old a jar of jello set on a chair to eat on her own and then went out to meet a guy to talk about apple trees on our property. April Fools Mom! Your daughter has fists full of powerful stain-making jello in her hands and you have half a second to get her and her slippery jello back into the kitchen.
Good joke, Ror!
Posted by Becca Groves at Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
We took the kids out on Saturday to collect the sap. We got 7 gallons for this first collection. A pretty great amount for the first gathering. Ivar was very involved this time around, as was Elsie and Vernon the cat. It was fun to look at these pictures from tapping our trees last year and to see how my kids have changed in one year!
Now today it is cold again, snowing on and off. But this is fine in the world of sap collecting. The fluctuating temperatures is great for sap flow, which makes the crazy spring weather not feel quite so disheartening when it gets cold again. It means more maple syrup in the end.
We're celebrating April Fools day around here. At breakfast I told Ivar he should tell me, "good night" because it's silly, and April Fools day is silly. He thought that was hilarious. And then he added some potty humor that got him into trouble. But then we found this site and made these April Fools juice cups with jello for dinner tonight. And, the kids made them with me. So the joke will have to be on Rory. :)
Posted by Becca Groves at Tuesday, April 01, 2014
Monday, March 31, 2014
We had an awesome family day yesterday. It was glorious here in Minnesota, with lots of melting snow. We celebrated Mimi's birthday and springtime and family.
We went for a springtime walk that led us down an icy path that was very wet. No one was wearing the right footwear and it was pretty hilarious. A memory to be sure.
One of my very favorite parts of marrying into the Groves family was that this meant I also married into the Frick family (my mother-in-law Marlene's side of the clan). The Frick's live out in Colorado and Uncle Larry (Marlene's brother) is one of Ivar's favorite people to talk about. He made a big impression when they met. Uncle Larry and Aunt Judy are missionaries who travel all over the world encouraging pastors. They are pure inspiration to me. You can read about their work here.
So when our families gather we have a Frick n' Groves good time. We'll say things like, "it's time for another Frick n' Groves family reunion." Or "a Frick n' Groves birthday party." And it's always hilarious to me. And it always will be.
Lisa made her sugar cookies that always impress. This season: apple blossoms. She's amazing!
And Mimi gave Elsie a little outfit from Hawaii. You'll have to wait until summer for a picture from the front, but until then, here is a little tease. Elsie rocks the tub top with her toddler belly.
Posted by Becca Groves at Monday, March 31, 2014
Sunday, March 30, 2014
We have had a lot of suggestions for naming our kittens. At the tree tapping party we had a bowl set out where everyone could suggest their own ideas. There were lots of fun names to choose from: my grandpa's names Phil and Johnny (to go with Velma and Verna...who is now Vernon), Ellie and Mittens, Spot and Kellie, Maple and Pancake, Tiger and Spot, Ida and Stella, Murph the Smurf and my personal favorites: Kelly and Sharin.
And for a while Marlene and Margaret were in the mix, named after our awesome moms. But last week I had to take the kittens to the vet because one of their eyes wasn't opening due to an infection. And there I was told that one of them is definitely a boy and the other is likely a boy.
Ivar was with me and they asked what the kittens names were. I told the vet we hadn't decided, so she recorded Kitten #1 and Kitten #2. And when I asked Ivar what he thought we should name them, he said his suggestions for the umpteenth time. The names he hasn't wavered from since the cats were born: Thomas and Percy. Named after his favorite trains in the world.
So ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have settled on their names. Enjoy some sweet, hungry meows from Thomas and Percy.
kittens- 2 weeks old from Becca Groves on Vimeo.
Posted by Becca Groves at Sunday, March 30, 2014
Saturday, March 29, 2014
These pictures were taken two weeks ago, but I really want to get this day documented. Because it was the quintessential happy spring day, one where you could feel everything coming back to life again. It was a Wednesday and the sun was out and Rory decided to tap the first two trees. It was the day when I brought the kids out in the garage and was surprised by two teeny kittens that had just been born.
Ivar was still napping during the tree tapping, so Elsie got undivided mom and dad time. Which always feels special when the second born gets a little parent time all by herself.
I mixed up some muddy soil to spoon into the egg cartons and the smell of dirt made us so happy. It smelled like spring. It smelled like that snow might actually melt away one day.
We ended the night watching Downton Abbey and rehashed the day: It started with ECFE, it included tree tapping and baby kittens. And it concluded with planting seeds for our garden. Springtime, new life, and hope in warmer weather was running through our veins. It was a day we won't soon forget.
And now, two weeks later, our little garden is growing in mighty ways. And the kittens have opened their eyes. And the sap is flowing. God put all these little wonders all around us, and I'm trying to keep my eyes wide open so I don't miss a thing.
Posted by Becca Groves at Saturday, March 29, 2014
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
I had assumed that the male cat would be off on new adventures when the kittens were born, but not Vernon. He's a sweet picture of a present, participating dad. :)
Posted by Becca Groves at Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Sunday, March 23, 2014
A week ago, Rory sent out an evite to family and friends who had shown interest in our maple syrup making last year. We were hopeful a dozen or so could make it. On Saturday we had forty people, 23 kids and 17 adults, to our house to help place the taps, feed the chickens, name the kittens and eat lots of pancakes.
Rory explained how to identify maple trees in the middle of winter and showed how we insert the taps and collect the sap. And he built an evaporator and had a fire going all morning to show how we boil down the sap. My dad was in charge of fire safety and thought that we had to wait for those pans to boil down before we could eat pancakes. Hilarious. It was just water...we don't have enough sap yet.
Since my birthday was last week, my mom brought my traditional bunny cake, the birthday cake I have had every year of my life. And then she had the most brilliant idea to cut the cake and eat it outside (no chocolate crumbs in my carpet!) Genius, mom.
The chickens were fed all morning. Some kids got the cracked corn through the fence and to the chickens. Others just dumped dixie cups of chicken food at their own feet.
The chickens seemed to like all the attention. They even cooperated in the spirit of the day by laying eggs for everyone to see.
The morning was awesome. Rory took groups out to the grove to tap trees, the chickens were fed plenty by every kid that walked by, we had a kitten naming contest (results to come), maple syrup cross words and word finds and fed a lot of people in our sunny room with the sunshine pouring in. Rory and I have lots of ideas like Tree Tapping Day, different times of the year when we can have people out to be a part of what we're up to. This first event set a great precedent.