Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Rory has gone to work in his office-in-the-woods every day this cold winter. His little wood burning stove has been working great.
Which means each morning we watch Daddy walk to work, across the snow, with his hot coffee in one hand and five gallon bucket of wood in the other, laptop strapped around his shoulders. We know the day is especially cold when he comes in at lunch and cuts more wood with the circular saw.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Oh man. We got a CD in the mail today full of glorious family pictures taken on our farm. We have hundreds to pick from and they are awesome. Jaime Rau came and worked her magic with our family and she. is. magic. I can't wait to share more pictures here...from Ivar pulling a wagon of pumpkins, to colorful quilts under big oak trees. They're awesome.
But with hundreds of stunning pictures to choose from, my favorite pictures, the ones I keep returning to, are the pictures Jaime put in a file of bloopers. Because they feel the most true to our life. We live bloopers every day. Some of us try really hard each day to keep up appearances, but not everyone is cooperative. Though dressed adorably, they've got their finger up their nose.
But this is our every day. A mom moves about each day trying to make sure life runs smoothly because this is our job. But life doesn't run smoothly because kids by their very definition ensure life stops running smoothly. A fact that makes these blooper pictures feel so strangely affirming. I love them. I love the picture perfect ones too, but I really love the bloopers.
An awesome shift has happened in me over the past two months. It's a shift I've been praying would happen for a very long time. I couldn't force it. I wasn't able to bring the change in myself. And I don't know how to describe it much more than I feel like I'm back. Something changed so that I've started dreaming up projects again and things I want to accomplish. And then I've been getting things done. It's like I have room to be creative again and have my imagination back.
I have found a sincere joy for the season of motherhood I am smack in the middle of. It was really hard there for a while. There still are really hard moments. But my kids are good company. I love being with them. I'm better at getting away so I can come back home. I am not as resentful toward the daily tasks, and even more importantly, I am way more graceful in the way I treat myself and how I am measuring up to my intense personal expectations. I'm trying to measure my life less on how my life looks, and more on how my life feels. And my life is feeling fun.
These bloopers mean so much to me because these are the true pictures of our imperfect, beautiful life.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
You are almost 17 months old. That is amazing and awesome. You are so full of life, so full of passion and so determined. Not a day goes by when your daddy and I don't comment, "She's really fun" or "She's so sweet, isn't she?" You amaze us and surprise us.
I'm not sure what we were expecting...probably another little Ivar. But you are completely your own and I love getting to know you.
You are messy. Food ends up everywhere on you and you don't seem to mind. But this pairs well with your love of baths. You also have a real joy for toothbrushes. Most of the day you will have a tooth brush in your mouth or in your hand. If anyone is in the bathroom, you come begging. Your stocking this year will be full of tooth brushes, and I can't wait to see your reaction.
You don't let me put you down until you are ready. Your little legs clench my waist and if I dare peel you off of me you let me have it. Your scream is angry and your feelings are so sad. There's a real hint of drama in you, Elsie. I'm sure we'll see more of that as the years go on.
You have just a few words: Baba, Mama, Dada, Lolo (lotion, for your itchy, sensitive skin), Daydo Daydo (kitty, chicken, animal...) and my personal favorite: Crakah (which can either mean cracker and tractor).
Going outside is your very favorite thing to do. You get very excited when we start to bundle up and helpfully bring your shoes and jacket to me. Once outside you visit the cats and talk and laugh with them, and then visit the chickens. Even in this terrible cold you insist on being outside and protest with sadness when it is time to come back inside.
You love your brother, and lately have been taking the lead in finding things to do. He watches you, and no matter what you are playing with, you make it look fun. So he wants it too. You are the one who pulled out all of the canned goods to play with. You are the one who figured out how to climb onto the kitchen table with no assistance.You are the one who waddled into the living room with the bread knife you found in the open dishwasher. You have no trouble finding things to do...
When you wake up in the morning we will hear you jumping in your crib, hanging onto the crib you jump as high as you can. And it is impressively high. Eventually you tucker out and start to call for us. But listening to your squeaky mattress crib aerobics in the baby monitor makes us laugh every time.
We love you so much, Elsie. Love your smile. Love your spirit. Love your strong sense of self.
I am so glad you are mine.
Monday, December 9, 2013
My personal favorite as of late was while he was playing the the fabric nativity people that velcro onto our advent calendar. He said, "Baby shepherds of the star! Don't talk grumpy! Okay. That's better. That's nice."
Ivar was making up silly nonsense words to the song Let it Snow.
I said, "That is super funny."
Ivar replied, "It certainly is."
While he was telling me something he snorted involuntarily. It was like he inhaled too quick and it really surprised him. He said, "Did you hear that sound? That was in my butt hole that is way back in my mouth!" And he pointed between his upper lip and nose.
Ivar wanted a watermelon when we were at Alde and we discussed foods that are out of season. This morning while eating breakfast he commented, "We haven't had rice krispies in a long time!" He ate for a while and then added, "That's nice it's rice krispies' season."
Friday, December 6, 2013
And I didn't like it immediately. It felt gloomy. And I don't do gloomy.
the same color I painted our sunny room.
Wednesday night I worked on a message I was giving at our thursday morning bible study. But Thursday night I hit it again, while listening Carrie Underwood in the Sound of Music. And that was way less fun than Planes, Trains and Automobiles...
Currently I'm at the auto shop with the truck, hoping we can get the wiper fluid to stop leaking and start squirting. I love it here. It's quiet, they have coffee and I'm catching up on so much. I'm off today for my second Soul Sisterhood Mother Daughter Retreat and feel so ready to hole up for a weekend of crafting and cooking with moms and daughters. Happy Weekend everybody!
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Last December we invited all of the people on our street to our house for a Milk and Cookies party. It was the easiest little gathering in the world to plan. The house is already looking festive and all you have to do as the host is provide the beverages (and clean your bathrooms).
It's a great way to see neighbors in the wintertime and an easy way to build community with the people you wave to nearly every day. This year Ivar helped me make invitations by watercolor painting the back side. Last year I just made ten phone calls and verbally invited everyone.
I wanted to throw this idea out there, because I have a feeling there are many of you readers who would totally be up to hosting something like this. And it's still early enough in the month to pull it off. Don't over think it. Just go build community! Eat cookies! And enjoy your neighbors!
Monday, December 2, 2013
This field has been a bit of a test in patience and has left us with great feelings of lack of control. You might remember we had to wait and wait and wait to get it planted in the first place. Due to a super late spring, super busy farmers and it's small size (four acres isn't enough to gain much interest) we had a terrible time finding someone we could hire to plant it for us.
Then when did find someone, we couldn't find the right seeds. So instead of alfalfa with oats as a cover crop we planted alfalfa and barley (on the seed dealer's advice). It wasn't cheap either (for the labor or the seeds). But we'd only have to do this once and the alfalfa would grow for 3-5 years, making a small sum with each cutting. A few days after it was planted we had major flooding in the area, and half of the seed ran to the corner of the field.
When it was time to harvest the barley, we were told it was too green. We were told to wait a few weeks. But weeks turned into months and we couldn't get the guy to come back and finish the job. If the cover crop wasn't removed it would smother the alfalfa next Spring.
It's funny to be in a place of utter dependence. It's not a common place to be. But this field left us with our hands tied. We don't have a tractor. We are smack in the middle of learning everything from scratch.
Tonight our farmer friend came to get the two bales, he told us some terrible-but-somehow-fitting news that the barley should have been cut way sooner. In fact, barley shouldn't have been planted at all. Barley overwhelms other crops. He doesn't think the alfalfa has much of a chance to come back next Spring. He recommends tilling it all under, and starting over next year. It's too bad because we have spent so much money on this field. So much money. And we're going to start next Spring in the same place we started this year.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
We had an awesome thanksgiving weekend celebrating on Thursday with both my parents and Rory's whole family at Kyle and Lisa's (this is Kyle's awesome picture above). It was so great to have only one place to go and meant we got to partake in the "lay low" part of Thanksgiving. Lisa is an amazing host, and even had Ivar sitting at the kids end of the table with Elsie in between her two grandma's. Lisa Groves, I am thankful for you!
The rest of the weekend sort of took us by surprise. We hadn't planned anything for our long weekend which meant all sorts of things happened: I cleaned the garage a bit and then decided to paint more of the house. This time I went for the hall around the staircase and painted it red. In a last minute decision I decided to go up the wall with the red, and now I regret that. (Which means I will soon be going over the red with primer and then many coats of...antique white. So that's too bad.) We decorated the outdoors a bit and the indoors too. We drove to a quilt shop and an antique shop on Saturday and found some treasures. And tonight Rory was on a quest to make the perfect al dente spaghetti noodle. It took three tries, but he found perfection on pot number three. All in all, a great weekend.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
This is us 20 years ago:
During my three years of middle school my homeroom teacher was Mrs. Johnston. Her classroom was the one I started every day of sixth, seventh and eighth grade. She was also my math teacher in sixth grade, joined our church and her mom and dad became dear friends of mine too.
She got a group of us together to wake a teacher up on her birthday with our own little band. She threw a surprise birthday party for me after ski club one year and another year woke me early to take me out for a surprise birthday breakfast. I babysat her kids, built a friendship with her daughter and exploded a bowl in her microwave when I tried to reheat the old maids from the popcorn bag.
When we graduated from 8th grade, she threw us a murder mystery party. When I was in 10th grade, my parents went to Israel for two weeks, and I went to stay with Mrs. Johnston (who had now become Mama J). While staying at her house, I fainted at breakfast and hit the gallon of orange juice and cheerios on my way down.
Mama J's parents became dear friends of mine at church. Her mom was the secretary that I got to talk to every time I needed to talk to my dad. Alice kept close tabs on me this way. I loved that.
At my dad's retirement party I was milling about from person to person in the narthex and then I saw Mama J and burst into tears. It was so instant and surprising to me that I reacted this way. I wasn't sure why I was crying so hard, other than I missed her. And there she was. She looked awesome, had lost quite a bit of weight and I just felt her love. I can't explain that very well, but Mama J loves me so well. I just know she does. She is one of my biggest fans. She loves me and believes in me.
A few months ago I got an email from Mama J's daughter Sarah, telling me that her mom was going in for tests. It looked like it might be cancer. And a few days later it was confirmed stage 4.
It knocked the wind out of me for a long time. Until I called Mama J and heard how upbeat she was and ready to fight. She knew the reality of all that she faced, but she also was ready to seize every day. I felt like a babbling idiot. I never know what to say in these moments. But she was so comforting and I was so grateful.
Ivar and I went to visit shortly after. We brought her a jar of zinnias from the garden, and Ivar had wanted to bring a jar too and chose just one hot pink zinnia for her. But when it was time to go home, he picked up his jar with his one zinnia. I told him that it was for Linda, but he protested and said that he would like to take it back home. Linda was gracious and Ivar took it back home. I kept that zinnia in my window sill for a long, long time. News like this is just so hard to understand and impossible to swallow.
Sunday night I had Mama J and a group of friends over that I first met in middle school, some of them in kindergarden. Twenty years after working our way through 6th grade word problems, drawing tessellations and spending each Friday night of the winter skiing together, we were back together again. It was a sweet, sweet time and just as we did all through middle school, we laughed all night long. It was a joy to be together. And a joy to celebrate Mama J.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Until then, I'll just enjoy my Aqua Aerobics class.
Can I tell you why I love this class so much?
1. I get out of bed and move around my quiet home. Then I drive to the pool in my quiet car when the sun is just rising. Quiet. This is the first reason I love aqua aerobics.
2. The pool at the senior center it is warmer than the bath I draw for Ivar and Elsie. When I wake up cold, I keep thinking about walking into that warm water. When we begin it is still pretty dark outside and the pool is all lit up. It's so welcoming.
3. The exercise itself is like yoga in the water. Lots of stretching, lots of water weights, lots of water jogging. And it feels so good. Especially on my lower back. Elsie is a hip child, and this is my time to stretch it all out. And this morning they were playing ABBA. Awesome.
4. It's super social. The instructor talks through the chatter, but there is lots of conversation. And this morning I got invited to the aqua aerobics cookie swap. Come on!
5. When the hour is over, I join a few others in the hot tub. This is downright luxurious to me.
6. I get to shower. By myself. Well, come to think of it, not by myself, but without my daughter pulling back the shower curtain trying to hurl herself into the tub with me.
7. On my way out I grab half a cup of coffee, already made, and drink it on my drive home.
8. When I come home, my family is sitting at the breakfast table, happy to see me. And my husband mumbles something about how the garage door woke the baby again and how he's been up since I left. (This happened Monday...today she slept until I got home!)
The people in the class are wonderful and the instructors have been great. In fact, I told Marilyn, our M, W, F instructor that I was blogging about our class today and told her she should read it. Hi Marilyn!
And that sign above? That's on the swim suit ringer. It made me happy the first time I saw it. Not every generation would know how to knead stiff bread dough. I know how, because my grandma taught me. And interestingly, she was a faithful aqua aerobics attender in her own town. :)
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
It's been a long time since I've done a chicken update. I think the last time I wrote about them was the day we said goodbye to Almonzo, Eggs and Hamburgerpoopedonthecarpet.
We had three chickens then for quite a while. But a few weekends ago we went back to Terri, our awesome chicken lady and got three more hens. I'd like to introduce you to Zinnia, Nana and Denise.
Zinna is the other black cochin. We wanted to give her a name that started with z, like the other black cochin, Zumbrota. For a while she was going to be Zeta, named after Catherine Zeta, but we chose Zinnia. And hopefully having named a chicken after my favorite flower, I will now learn how to spell Zinnia without an e. That was a bummer.
Nana got her name for a few reasons. My nephew Simon told me he was a Mexican Banana for Halloween. I asked him what that looked like and he said, "a banana with a sombrero." I wanted to honor his clever costume in some way. When I told Rory he said, "well, Elsie can say Nana." So we named a chicken a word that Elsie can say.
Denise. Driving home discussing names Rory said, "How about Denise." I nearly spit my coffee. A chicken named Denise. That's just hilarious.
Introducing the three new ladies to Big Rooster Legos and the other two hens has been sort of hard to watch. The animal kingdom bothers me. And though Rory tells me to stop projecting coop hardships, I can see what is happening. Legos is aggressive and rough. And sweet Zumbrota, who used to be the uncool chicken in the coop, suddenly made it into the popular clique and is rude to the new kids. Come to think of it, the chicken coop plays out a whole lot like high school cliques.
We are getting two or three eggs a day, and after they are done molting, expect all five hens to start laying. Five eggs a day equals a whole lot of frittata.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I don't like shopping for clothes. As in, I hate it. It's just not fun for me. And I have no idea how to shop for a wardrobe. Which means most Sunday mornings leave me running around the house in a fury, unable to put an outfit together, frustrated that I'm so frustrated about getting dressed to go to church.
I typically shop event to event. Dad's retirement party was coming up so I had to go get a dress or something. Family reunion around the corner and I ran to target and get a bunch of new hoodie sweatshirts. True story.
I do ponder deep things about clothing thought. Like the part of the Bible that says that the lilies of the field don't worry about what they're going to wear...even Solomon in all his splendor can't compare to the beauty of the flowers. But flowers don't have to get dressed for fancy events, so it's hard to compare.
You're right. I'm missing the point. But it's hard to think about flowers and Solomon when I know I have to put something on that will look put together.
So imagine my complete gratitude when two dear friends, the girls that I get to work with on the Mother-Daughter Soul Sisterhood Retreats, took me under their wing. Melanie and Amanda always look nice. Not overdone, not trying too hard...just nice. And classy.
I told them my woes and they offered to help me build a wardrobe.
You heard me. A wardrobe.
And they meant business. My wardrobe overhaul had three phases, with a few phases still to come.
Phase 1: What Not To Wear
Melanie and Amanda came to my house on a lovely Saturday and I tried on every piece of clothing that I own for them. And just as Stacy and Clinton do in the tv show, I was shown the light and was taught a few important things.
1. I am not allowed to shop in the juniors department anymore. Because I'm 32.
2. It is time to start doing my laundry. As in, not drying everything completely. I need to care for my clothes so they don't shrink up on me. I need to read tags and then follow the laundering instructions. Because I'm 32.
3. Target, Ragstock and Garage Sales are the three top places I shop for clothes. And that's okay. But it is also okay to get a few nicer pieces to build from. If I promise to wash them with care.
It was an awesome day and when they left I drove two overflowing clothes baskets to good will. The girls stripped me of my clothes and it felt awesome. Because I knew what was coming next.
(Unfortunately, we couldn't meet again for another month or so. Which meant I had like seven things to choose from in my closet for a month. That was tricky.)
Phase 2: Pinterest
The day of the clothing purge from my closet, Amanda and Melanie wrote up a list of items my closet was missing, pieces that might work with what I already had. And then I was given the assignment of making a pinterest board, pinning clothes that I like.
I made this board, and from looking at this board and knowing what was left in my closet, Amanda made up a shopping list, sort of in order of priority. The list included what colors I seemed drawn towards and what should be purchased in the future, but not on this first spree.
Phase 3: Shopping at the Mall of America
The day finally arrived. I was super excited to see these girls again, and super excited to get some items in my closet. And oh my word, to shop with two actual shoppers! To have two ladies picking things out for me to try on. To have them checking things off the list, keeping the colors coordinating, running for different sizes, hanging clothes back up on their hangers! It was a dream come true!
We went to four stores: Old Navy, Loft, Marshalls and DSW. And here's what I came home with:
A winter coat, scarf and hat
Boot cuffs, tights and boot insoles
black leggings and jeggings
two tank tops
one denim shirt (called something fancy now...I can't remember what)
two necklaces and one pair of earrings
two flowy shirts (also called something fancy)
two striped tops
And Melanie brought a few items from her own closet, bless her heart! Like the cutest dress I've ever seen. And the girls even gifted me with some additional jewelry. Amazing, right?
We shopped on Veterans Day, which meant everything was absurdly priced. I'd list the grand total, but it would sound like I'm bragging. I had been saving up since August and that was enough.
And now I have a fall capsule wardrobe (capsule was their fancy word, not mine).
And I don't have to have a conniption every time I need to look nice for an event. Plus, I have nicer every day clothes that just make me feel better.
So. If you're in my boat, not loving to shop, not knowing how to put things together, ask a friend who loves to shop. And walk through these three phases. It's so fun. And empowering. This site also has some really helpful hints.
And a final thought: don't fight the jeggings. I wasted a lot of time thinking that jeggings were dumb. But oh my word. They are so comfy. You know, I didn't own a pair of non-legging pants until I was in 7th grade. I lived in leggings. And they're back people! How I thought jeggings were a dumb idea, I don't know. They are brilliant. Comfy, fitted and cute with boots.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Well this weekend was way better than last weekend mostly because we didn't drag our kids to seven furniture stores on Saturday to look at couches.
But this weekend crazy things happened. For example, Rory took his hunting beard (the one he's been growing since November 1) hunting. And he is happy to report it kept him warm. I am happy to report it looks awesome on him. He is happy to report it will be gone in the next few days because it's itchy. And I am happy to report that will make for way better kissing.
The other crazy thing that happened this weekend? I rejoined facebook. (insert your gasp with my big swallow of pride here)
It's been four and a half years since I dropped out and have been thinking for a while that it is time to join back in. I wrote about two practical reasons for dropping out back in 2009 here. My reason for rejoining is also practical: it's just a handy connection tool for quick communication with a whole lot of people.
I suppose I could write a long explanation, but I won't. What I will tell you is that Saturday night was filled with extroverted joy as people started accepting my friend requests. I was giddy. And goofy about the whole thing. I have friends! Rory! I have friends!
I'm excited. Look me up. I'll probably yelp a little as your request comes my way.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Oh my. In a moment I turned from Writing Retreat Attendee to Billy Graham Fan-with-a-Plan. The next afternoon, during a chunk of free time I set out "for a walk."
The thing about North Carolina is that up the road is actually up. The road was so steep, and I regretted my flip flop footwear. I hiked that hill all the way to an open wooden gate. I had arrived.
I remember standing at the gate, marked with a sign that read private drive. Ahead was more road and more trees and I wondered how many other super fans had made this very pilgrimage. I also wondered what my plan had been when I arrived at his place.
As I thought about these things, three black SUV's drove through the gate and up towards the house. I smiled at the tinted black windows. I wondered if Billy or Ruth had been in one of those SUV's. I wondered if this was common for them to find random Christians standing at their gate.
The gate was open but I turned around and walked back down the steep hill. I respected the sign. I also figured out by the sound of the SUV's that the house was still way up the hill. So I set back, this time seriously regretting my flip flops, digging between my toes.
I have appreciated Billy Graham for a long time. I love that he has been a pastor to so many of our presidents from both political parties. I miss him lately, his wisdom and voice speaking to our country. I love that he seemed revered by lots of denominations. He was most definitely Baptist, but first a Christian.
Today I was painting the window trim in our living room while the kids were at my mom's. I had the Today show on and Kathy Lee Gifford shared why Billy Graham has been her greatest inspiration.
Click here to watch her segment. It's so good.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Treat: Watching Ivar grasp trick-or-treating. He loved it. Uncle Kyle and I took him from house to house and he was a very happy boy. And I was full of bliss. I adore trick-or-treating (meeting neighbors, candy, cute kids all dressed up...) and have waited since I retired my game at age 16 to get back into it.
Trick: Going to the doctor earlier that day and being told the sores all over Elsie's mouth and hands and feet (and knees and bottom) were in fact, hand, foot and mouth disease. She and her dad stayed in that night and went to bed extra early.
Treat: Halloween at Lisa's. Lisa is always above and beyond and halloween is no different: mummy dogs, minion pumpkins, dumb dumb stuck into a pumpkin, cupcakes with eyes, pumpkin krispie bars, amazing decor, full size candy bars, music, white chicken chili...all of it. I LOVE going to her house for halloween.
Trick: Jack, dressed as Mr. Fox with Betsy as Mrs. Fox, said to me, "oh fun, Thomas the Train. Is that like one of those pregnancy costumes?" Bwahaha. The Thomas head was right at my belly. I hiked it a little higher and made a special note that when I am pregnant again I should wear this costume.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
A week ago we had friends over and their first grade son, Andrew, asked me if I would be his Special Friend on Special Friend Day at his school.
Oh brother. Would I? My heart swelled and I was so honored.
Before I had kids I used to be a favorite with most children but since having my own, I'm not able to pour into other kids as much...so when Andrew asked if I'd come, it meant so much to me! He saw me as a worthy special friend!
I brought Ivar because I knew he'd love it. And he did. He wore his new outfit from Mimi and looked very big to me. He ate his whole lunch, sat through an entire Mass, and now believes that when kids go to school they sit on a carpet and play with cars and legos with other kids.
When we left he said to me, "I would like to go back to Andrew's school sometime. Maybe tomorrow!"