Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tulips in December



Earlier this week I was given a bouquet of tulips.  
Yes, beautiful yellow and orange tulips in December.  I had met a friend in the mall 
parking lot; her 14 year old daughter is fighting cancer.  She gave me the bag I had come to pick up, and then her youngest daughter, 8, sweetly handed me tulips and a bag of homemade treats.

Imagine my surprise.  There I was, empty-handed, taking gifts from a family that is going through a struggle I can't comprehend.  Just one week before, the mom had signed paperwork for hospice care to begin.  Walking away, arms full of gifts, I was humbled, and when I brought the flowers home and set them on my table late that night, I stood and cried as I looked at them beside the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree.

What if we, at all times, including our worst times, showed the rest of the world 
what giving and kindness look like?

What if we all sent out twice as many Christmas cards as we receive...
not removing people from our list when we don't receive from them?

What if we treated every person in our life as if they are important....
not just those who benefit us?

What if our generosity extended to both those in need and those who have plenty?

What if we were to stop soul-searching by looking inward, and realize that our purpose on this earth is to live with a focus on others? Others in our home...others across the street...others in our family...others around the world.

Tulips in December aren't so common, and yet I found out this week they are some of the prettiest flowers I've seen as the Christmas tree lights shine upon them.  
Something unexpected and beautiful.

For most of us, our own giving and kindness isn't as common as we'd like to think.  We give when we have lots, and when we feel like it, and when all is right in the universe.  But how about when we have little, and when we're not up to it, and when everything seems out of control?

Those tulips won't last forever, but their significance will.
May the generosity of heart we feel during the Christmas season extend 
into our darkest times.
Because giving and kindness should be part of every season of the year 
and every season in our lives.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's Good Being "Mom"

So there are these 3 boys.
They've managed to steal my heart.
They call me "Mom".

I love this time of year...
the days and weeks that surround Thanksgiving.
While I wish for us all to open our eyes and arms a little wider 
in THANKS and GIVING year round, 
it's a beautiful thing to see during this season.

For me, thoughts of thankfulness turn to our 3 boys.
There is more love, more laughter, more kindness, more joy
in our home because of them.

But then, there is also this...

My plane landed in Seattle last Wednesday night at 7:30pm.
Exactly 24 hours later, I found myself hovering over the bathroom toilet, 
scrubbing away at a week's worth of germs
while simultaneously dodging blow darts being shot at my backside.

Silently, I decided to take it as a "welcome home" gesture.


For those of us who are "Mom", the title means many things.

We shuttle little girls to piano and ballet,
and endure grocery store trips with screaming babies.
We add the word "step" and share our job with another.
We smile (and cry) when our birds leave the nest,
and wish the difficult issues were as simple as when they were young.
We ride in the truck passenger seat with the boy who... 
just before we blinked...
was crawling on the floor in a diaper pushing toy trucks.
If the chair had a rock-o-meter, it would register in the millions,
and we learn that the ability to be up all night and still function the next day 
is a God-given gift, although one we're not often thankful for.

We comfort, encourage, scold, teach, lose our patience...
ask forgiveness, defend, love, lose our patience again... 
and pray for them more than they'll ever know.

At times over the years, I've taken it for granted...being a mom.
Three pregnancies and three healthy baby boys; 
forgetting about so many mamas who wished for just one.
Whining about the endless lineup of work,
rather than being thankful that I'm designed to handle it.
How cool is that?
(not the whining, folks...the other part)
Recently, a friend received news that her daughter's 
cancer battle is nearing the end.  
After a year of praying for healing, 
for a miracle,
she is now asking for prayers of comfort.
I know, and they know, that God loves them,
and that heaven is the best destination ever.
But to consider such loss...
that tells me I cannot possibly take this job for granted. 
Not for a moment.

Most of us didn't have an accurate vision of our mom life.
I sure didn't.

Soon we'll build gingerbread houses, 
and I know already they will become target practice later this winter.
Boys are weird.
What happened to just eating the stale candy and throwing the rest away?
And come spring, there will be begging to let baby chicks hatch
inside the house again (no in advance, boys).
Every season of the year, along with every season of life,
brings the unexpected
and brings some new things to be thankful for.

There are times we get praised for doing the job of parenting, 
and times where we don't feel valued at all.
Society pushes us pretty hard to devote ourselves to ambitious busyness 
outside of our families.
But God gives us both a precious gift and responsibility through motherhood.

For all you mamas out there, on this day of Thanksgiving and on every day of the year,
please know you've been given an awesome job;
something to be so very thankful for.
And it's okay if it doesn't come wrapped in pretty packaging everyday.
I have the "welcome home" marks from a blow dart to prove it.

Yes, it's good being "Mom".


Sunday, November 9, 2014

This is Still What They Love...

Now and then, 
that thought we're determined to hold onto, 
to never forget, 
fades a bit in the hurry of everyday life.


Late tonight I picked up Cole from a day of fishing...
his first ever for silver salmon...
in a coveted place many will never see. 

Up early with his gear packed and smiling, I was reminded this morning of a blog post from 2 years ago...This Is What They Love (to check it out, click here).  I had written it about the boys' love of duck hunting.  
And again...the words were in my head...
This is what he loves.

A 12 year old doesn't just go to bed after dinner to wake up at 2:30am 
for something they don't love.  
Or voluntarily take an overnight trip with near strangers 
for something they don't love.  
Nor do they talk with a twinkle in their eye the entire car ride home 
about something they don't love.

And yet just weeks ago, I was persistently working to convince this boy that he must play basketball this year.  
Days of effort went into the plea...
"but you are so good at it"
"it will be a great experience"
"you will learn so much"
"you'll be better prepared for the future"

...and on and on, before one final afternoon,

"Mom, I just don't love it." 




And with those words, I realized what I had known before, and still knew deep down. 
My "best" intentions might be based on what everyone else is doing, 
and not on what's best for my kids. 
Society is like a vacuum when we're not paying attention to what's important.

This boy is gifted at what he loves.  
His hunting and fishing experiences, in 12 short years, tell a wonderful story.  
He has learned much, and is already a teacher to many.

We are all created with different talents and abilities.
God works in different ways through each of us, 
and we are to use our gifts to honor Him and bless others.

To think of my original post about these boys who loved to hunt (and fish) 2 years ago,
to know they are more in love with it today...
THAT is a blessing.
To get to talk early on in life about using the things you love to do for God's glory...
that is also a blessing.

And for the little nudge I got today, 
the one that reminded me it's okay not to do what everyone else is doing,
that is something I am truly thankful for.
Because,
This is still what they love.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dash Through New England - Part 2

Day three of our New England trip began in the dark hours of night at the lodge near Mt. Mansfield, in the Green Mountains of Vermont.  While Keith slept, I sat awake listening to one of the most magnificent rain storms of my life.  Between the wind and rain, it sounded as if someone were spraying a fire hose against the windows.  And once the fire hose would stop, it seemed that a bucket brigade began...right in its place.  

I love storms, and thought it was so cool to be spending the night witnessing one in the state that I had instantly fallen in love with.


When morning came, steady rain continued.  The mountains were socked in, so we packed up and headed out.  The Stowe Mountain Lodge was easily my favorite overnight stop of our trip.  Kind and helpful staff, beautiful rooms, and even a restaurant whose food made you forget you were in a hotel. This place was well worth the splurge.

The forecast for the entire state was rain, so we took advantage of that time to cover some ground quickly on the interstate.  One thing about road trips - you won't see an area for what it is if you stay on the interstate.  Take the back roads as much as you can, wherever you are.


Ice cream for breakfast?  Okay. :)  Ben & Jerry's Factory tours draw thousands of folks each year in Waterbury, just south of Stowe.  Ben & Jerry's is just plain awesome...not only are they passionate about producing the best possible ice cream, they hold tight to their values.

"Business has a responsibility to give back to the community."
That's their motto.
I think I should buy more of their ice cream in the future just because of this. :)

We did a bit of backtracking next as we headed southeast across Vermont toward New Hampshire.  One more stop for actual breakfast in the capital city of Montpelier at a little place with rave reviews...


If you end up here, order the Breakfast Monster...egg, Cabot cheese, baby spinach, 
roasted red pepper, caramelized onion, basil sunflower pesto, served alongside a salad made of local greens.  

This may have bordered a little too closely to the hippie side for Keith - a lover of breakfasts greasy, gigantic, and full of every meat known to man - but I was in hog heaven.  
Salad with breakfast?  I thought that only happened in my dreams...
(And no...the salad part isn't required.  They have countless crepe varieties, including those filled with Nutella, strawberries, and fresh whipped cream.  No salad included.)


This is the state building in Montpelier.  One of only a handful of capital buildings with a gold dome.  We really liked this little town...the smallest US capital with a population of less than 9,000.  There were lots of cool downtown shops (or so it appeared from the car window...you don't shop when you're on vacation with the Ranch Boss unless you find a farm store), and the city streets were full of awesome, old homes.  I may say this again later, but in case I don't - being from the West Coast, we were in awe the entire trip of the huge, historic houses in nearly every town!  This trip truly could have been limited to just looking at them.  If you love old houses, too, this is the place to go.

As we cruised on out of Vermont, we read up a bit more about the state.  There are some things that really make Vermont unique.  I appreciate that you don't see fast food chains on every corner.  Or on almost any corner, for that matter.  We saw one McDonalds in the entire state; in fact, Montpelier is the only US capital without a McDonalds.  Vermont was also the last state to have a Walmart.  And because it has stronger planning and development control at a statewide level than many states, you won't find advertisement billboards anywhere.  Before we were even out of Vermont, I was ready to go back.


About the time we got to New Hampshire, the weather cleared and we returned to the back roads.  In the small town of Andover, we came across a covered bridge, above.  The American flag hanging on this bridge made it my hands down fave.  Isn't it just beautiful? 

And a short drive further, we found the Keniston bridge, built in 1882.  Check out that fall foliage in the background.


As we traveled farther south and towards the coast, we hit a few areas that were still at their fall foliage peak.  The New England states do an awesome job of providing online updates by region and county, so if you're taking a fall trip, rely on them for help.  This year, we learned that some of the best color in the north happened as early as August, so it really varies each year.  If I was going strictly to see the leaves, I think I'd pick early October.


Way down a dirt road...the kind that most people would have turned back on a mile or two before, we came across tiny Bradley Lake, above.

The lake was surrounded by trees, and as the leaves fell, they floated to the shore.  
What a beautiful sight.


Bradley Lake spilled into this rushing creek.  I just can't get enough of these colors.


Canterbury Shaker Village sits off the beaten path in New Hampshire.  We didn't have time to stop for a tour, but it looked equally as cool as the Hancock Village in MA.  If I was in this area again, I'd make the time to stop for a tour, without a doubt.  This (above) is one of the Shaker buildings.


Next stop was Concord, New Hampshire.  State Street revealed lots of cool architecture, including another capital with a gold dome.  We stretched our legs just long enough to do a little sprint around the state building before heading on toward the coastal towns.

I will say at this point...a trip like this (seeing as much as you can in a relatively short time) definitely means some sacrifice when it comes to staying in one place for very long.    It isn't a trip for everyone, that's for sure.  Even Keith - who likes to move quickly - was ready to stop the car and refuse to go one more mile at some point during this day.  I'd like to think it was my sweet persuasion that caused him to press on.  He likely has a different answer.


At long last (even though the day was but halfway over), we arrived at the coast.  Here we are at North Hampton, where Keith got his first ever view of the Atlantic Ocean.  We've mastered the art of looking happy in between travel spats. :) 


Definitely a beautiful beach to welcome a person to this ocean for the first time.


And the North Hampton summer cottages.  Wow.  They were built by the wealthy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a place to spend the summer.  Here's the cottage I want, complete with pumpkins on the porch steps.
Hey, a girl can always dream...

Up next: the state of Maine.  I had mostly omitted the minor detail of traveling to this state from prior conversations, since I was afraid my plan might get vetoed.  In hindsight, I'd say it was best to blindside Keith with the idea. :)  
I begged (or whined)...we drove...it was all good.
We ended up in The Kennebunks.  The town of Kennebunk itself had the most well-kept historic homes of any place we visited.

This house...probably in large part because of the sun setting behind it...was one of my faves.
Can I move in?  Please?


Kennebunkport had the cutest little coastal downtown area ever, and all the small boats coming back into port during sunset looked just like a movie scene (below).  The summer cottages of Kennebunkport were just as beautiful as they were in North Hampton, and seeing the Bush Compound here was a  highlight for Keith.


Alisson's in Kennebunkport is known as the place to see and be seen in town.  They're famous for their lobster rolls and clam chowder, and were featured earlier this year in Food Network Magazine.  I was so stoked to get Maine lobster that I didn't pay attention to whether or not we were actually surrounded by famous folks.  All I can really tell you is this place was busy, fun, and the food was delicious.  I'm ready for another lobster roll already!


After dinner we hit the road for one more stretch, and a couple of hours later, ended our day in Hyannis, a small town on Cape Cod.

The day's travels had taken us from northern Vermont, through New Hampshire, north into Maine, and then south back through New Hampshire and Massachusetts, ending up at its southeast corner.

By the time we got to Cape Cod, it was dark.  As in, completely dark.  We knew we were on island time the moment we crossed the Sagamore Bridge.  Slow roads, no street lights;  I wondered if there was an island-wide 9pm bedtime.  But I think the dark was a good thing...our eyes and minds had taken in so much for one day.  It would be best to see the cape with fresh eyes after a good night of sleep. 

And there ends Day 3.  Stay tuned...we've still got 2 more days to go!




Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dash Through New England - Part 1

One of the best things about farm kids is that they become pretty capable at an early age.  So while the 3 young ranch hands are home tending to things (with some help from their grandparents), Ranch Boss and I are on our first trip to the 
New England states.

And already...WOW.  We are impressed.

So here goes the first part of our route summary.  Hopefully it'll help if you get out this direction and trust our advice...


We landed at Newark Airport last night.  Old, icky airport, but the price was right so we won't complain.  We had some ground to cover in order to put us in a cool place to start today, so we headed north to Catskill, NY and stayed just long enough to have dinner on a very quiet Friday night at La Conca D'oro.  Great Italian food - the cornmeal crusted red snapper was awesome.  Then east to  Stockbridge, MA on backroads - trying to pretend we weren't missing anything too cool in the dark night. 


Along the way we booked our B&B for the night.  Thankfully, the kind folks at Conroy's answered the phone after 8pm and still had a room open.  This is Conroy's (above), an 1830s farmhouse built in the Federal style, tucked under a canopy of maples, just outside downtown Stockbridge in The Berkshires.  We enjoyed (translation: Keith endured) frittata, homemade granola, and fresh fruit for breakfast while visiting with a NYC psychiatrist and a college professor from Boston.  I had to wonder if they were disturbed that our jobs involve mud and manure...

By the way, this was our very first stay at a B&B.  Loved it.  If you find creaky doors, floors, and walls charming, and you don't mind breakfast at a small table with complete strangers, give a historic B&B a try.  Staying in an old house like that really takes you back to a simpler time.


Above, you'll see our first good look at New England fall foliage, taken in Stockbridge.  This was all it took to know we'll be coming back for more.  The best views are definitely on the back roads.


First Congregational Church of Stockbridge.


In one of the brochures at the B&B, a local hike in Stockbridge caught my eye.  I tried to persuade Keith it would be the highlight of our day; he wasn't convinced, but humored me anyway.  As it became apparent that this was the Massachusetts equivalent of Mount Peak in Enumclaw, Keith decided he'd better map out our day back at the car and let me run ahead.  He's thoughtful like that.  So run I did...over nearly a mile of fallen leaves...and I got to the top of Laura's Tower, the sound of my heartbeat in my ears, looking forward to the view the brochure had promised.


Well looky here...the top of the hill wasn't actually the top.  I guess the hike is called Laura's Tower for a reason.

"Do I drag my panting self up that thing and risk falling to my death while Keith sits in the car and grumbles that I always take longer than expected?  Or do I go back down and pretend I never saw this giant metal beast?" 


Well...I just couldn't resist.  As I reached the top, I considered calling Keith to come rescue me.  My knees were knocking up on that little platform and it was unclear as to how on earth I'd get down alone.

I stood for a few minutes...looked out over the incredible view...and finally, miraculously, talked myself into doing this thing.  Tonight, I read about Laura's Tower in another tour book...

"The tower's ladder, however daunting, is worth the anxiety."

I could not have given a better description.


Back to Stockbridge we went for a quick foot trip down Main Street.
Stockbridge is worth a visit.  Its buildings have been the subject of Norman Rockwell paintings.  The Red Lion Inn (above) was originally built in 1773, and is breathtaking. The Berkshire Cottages, turn-of-the-20th-century luxury summer cottages, were anything BUT "cottages" to us, and are a must-see.


Our next stop was the Hancock Shaker Village, just north in the town of Pittsfield.
This place was the highlight of Keith's day - a fully restored Shaker Village sitting on 1,200 acres in The Berkshires.  Above is a glimpse of a small garden shed there.


The kitchen was my favorite area.  Everything set up as if you'd see women in there preparing meals for the day.  The kitchen was just a small part of a gigantic 4 story brick building that also housed all the women and children.  Although the Shakers believed in equality between men and women, the women did all the cooking.


Check out this door handle.  We actually had the same handle in our room at the B&B.  Now this looks like something that could easily withstand 3 young ranch hands.  I've put in a request for new door handles when we return home.


And this is the round stone barn, built in 1826.  Keith is dreaming about this barn in his sleep as I type, I guarantee it.  Pictures of this barn don't come close to capturing its awesomeness.


Inside the top floor of the barn.  I'm going to put a flower arrangement in our barn back home and see how long it lasts...

The Hancock Shaker Village...go see it.


Next stop: Bennington, Vermont.
Yay, we're in a new state!  We read in some travel guide that Lil Britain Fish and Chip Shop was owned by a native British couple, and had exceptional fish and chips.
We agree.  Served up on paper plates alongside gravy in a little hole-in-the-wall cafe', these fish and chips are the best we've had to date.  Yes, ever.  And the locally brewed Vanilla Cream Soda and Root Beer are a bonus.


Check this out...another first for us...a covered bridge!  This one is just northwest of Bennington, and 2 other equally cool bridges are within a very short driving distance.  So awesome.


And in case you were wondering, this is what the inside of a covered bridge looks like.


First Congregational Church of Bennington.
Big, beautiful, historic church buildings are a dime a dozen around here.


From Bennington we headed northeast toward Woodstock.  We're a little late for fall foliage, but caught the tail end here and there.  This is some river alongside some back road on the way to Woodstock.  Isn't is beautiful??


And here is some lake on the same road heading toward Woodstock.  If we've missed the best fall foliage, I just can't imagine how much better it gets.  This is the last picture I was allowed to stop and take according to Keith. :)


Thankfully we stopped in Woodstock which meant I could take more pictures.  This is the Woodstock Inn and Resort.  I don't even have to tell you how awesome it is.


Woodstock is often referred to as the prettiest small town in America.
We would agree.


And here is Ranch Boss, walking as fast as he only does when he's overdue for a meal.  Can't you just tell that this town has some serious charm?

And I don't have any photo documentation, but we stopped at the Woodstock Farmer's Market on our way out of town.  It's filled not only with local produce, but endless displays of locally made goods...cheese, maple syrup, caramels, baked goods...the list goes on and on. If you stop, and you really should, the ginger molasses cookies are to die for (and have bits of fresh ginger in them), paired with a dark chocolate, salted caramel latte.  Yum.


About the time we left Woodstock, the rain began, and it's been raining ever since.  Did we bring it with us??  We headed northwest to Stowe, and landed here, at the Stowe Mountain Lodge.  Stowe sits in the heart of the Green Mountains, and is known as a popular ski resort town.  We've only seen it from our headlights so far, and can't wait for morning to come.  

So that's it for days 1 and 2.  We're so glad to be here.  I'm already trying to figure out how we can postpone our return trip to Seattle by at least a day...



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Need To Go For A Run...


"Hey hon, can you hurry home?  I need to go for a run."
"Son, can you get your brother ready for school?  I need to go for a hike."
"Do you have plans for us in the morning?  Because I REALLY need to go to the gym."

Those are typical statements my family has grown used to over the years.  And on rare occasions, after not getting my way and whining like a child, I stop to think of how ridiculous I must sound; my requests so twisted at times that my workout agenda trumps family time, important ranch work, and most of all, time with God.

Three times this week, yes THREE, I've been met with these verses.  I do believe God is asking for my attention:

"...Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness.  Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.  This is true, and everyone should accept it."   - 1 Timothy 4:7-9

And these are the footnotes that follow:

"Are you in shape both physically and spiritually?  In our society, much emphasis is placed on physical fitness, but spiritual health is even more important.  Our physical health is susceptible to disease and injury, but faith can sustain us through these tragedies... Are you developing your spiritual muscles?"

I'm challenged by these words.  Even among Christian friends, my social plate is heaped with talk of the gym, and races, and competitions, and the next best diet plan... and lightly seasoned with Jesus.  Don't get me wrong, I love all of those things, minus the diet plans, but Jesus has to come first, and very often doesn't.

What if tomorrow I was as distraught over missing a morning of time in God's Word 
as I was over missing a morning at the gym? 

What if I would admit that it's actually a case of selfishness and not need 
that fuels the grumpy girl who hasn't worked out in a few days? 

I guess it's pretty simple.  What if I let God come first each and every day, in ALL things, not just the areas I choose?  
What if we all did that?

It occurred to me tonight that, despite my attempts to convince Keith otherwise, God probably didn't design us with bodies that would require so much physical upkeep that our relationship with Him, and with our families, would have to be sacrificed.

Just to clarify, an anti-workout campaign this is not.  Not one bit.  Because we are also called to take care of our physical bodies; we can definitely serve God more effectively in a body that is strong and healthy.  But for those of us who love to work out, we have to remember that we live in a world of overindulgence, and it isn't limited to "unhealthy" things like over-eating and over-spending.  We may be guilty of it, too.

I don't plan to give up on running, hiking, or the gym anytime soon. In fact, chances are good that I'll be out there doing one of the three tomorrow.  But one thing is certain... I'll be setting aside the time to get in a spiritual workout first.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sisters


Sisters are different flowers from the same garden...

Last night my sisters and I went out for dinner to celebrate Kjersti's 25th birthday.  It didn't occur to me until I got home and all was quiet, that my middle sister is actually 25.  Seems like just last week she was crawling around in diapers.

I was a teenager when both my sisters came into this world.  In 1989, a note was delivered to my 9th grade geometry class at Olympic Junior High, announcing that my baby sister had arrived.  My friends cheered, and I just couldn't wait to see her and hold her for the first time.  She was named after a pen pal I had from Norway, and after my mom said I could help choose her name, I must have practiced writing it at least a few billion times.  Of course, I didn't know whether she'd be a boy or girl, but I hoped that writing the name enough would sway the odds.

Two years later, I was in the high school locker room when a runner from the office tracked me down to tell me my mom was on her way to the hospital in Seattle.  Chloe was coming into the world before we all expected, and I remember wishing I could stomp on the gas pedal from the back seat of my grandma's car as we cruised down the interstate to get to Swedish Hospital that evening.  Once again, I didn't know whether a sister or brother would be joining our family, but the name writing trick seemed to work the first time, so I did it again with Chloe, whose middle name Nicole came from our Australian exchange student the year before.

For a teenage girl, having baby sisters was one of the coolest things ever.  I learned how to fix dinner while my mom was pregnant, because she couldn't stomach the smell when the pantry door opened.  That part was not so cool, but in hindsight I suppose I may not have learned to cook otherwise. When the girls were just little, our house was full of my friends who adored them and played with them all the time.  babyGap become my favorite store.  As they got a bit older, Kjersti had a fascination with wild animals, and would recite facts about rare Asian critters to everyone who came to our house, while wearing her favorite Princess Jasmine (think Aladdin) pajamas.  Chloe, on the other hand, would crouch in the corner and growl like a lion.  Messy blonde hair, squinted eyes, and teeth bared.  No joke.  Soon, I regretted taking her to see The Lion King as a 2 year old. 

When they were 7 and 5, Kjersti and Chloe were flower girls in our wedding.  I'll never forget the bittersweet feeling of leaving a home filled with the kids I loved (the girls, and also my brother Trevor, who was 15), and starting my life as a new wife in a quiet house with no kids.  That was a hard transition for me.  I remember standing at the kitchen sink in our little old house, washing dishes and wiping away the tears from missing them so Keith wouldn't know.  They spent the night with us often, but for a long time, I felt like I'd deserted them, and hoped it didn't hurt them like it did me.

But here we are...lots of years later...and my sisters have grown to become beautiful women. Kjersti quit wearing the Jasmine pajamas eventually, and Chloe stopped growling somewhere along the way.  

There is so much happiness in knowing that whether we are near or far, whether our interests are the same or different, or whether we talk once a day or once a month, we have the bond of sisterhood that connects us.  A sister truly is a friend forever.
As for my sisters, I've had the privilege of watching them grow from tiny babies to adulthood.  They are aunts, but more like sisters, to my own boys who adore them.  They laugh often.  They are loyal friends.  They are both full of kindness, touching the lives of all they meet.

I think that God has a way of growing our appreciation for the important things in our lives.  When both my sisters were born, I didn't think I could be any happier.  But now that we are all grown, I can say I'm more thankful for them than ever before. :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Summer Hair



So I didn't get that perfect picture of our 3 boys together, lined up on the first day of school this year.  That's right, the one where they're smiling with brand new clothes, backpacks, lunch boxes, and haircuts.

Truth is, an honest back-to-school photo would reveal Clay with the messy mullet he's been growing out for the past year (flashback to the 80s); Carson carrying a lunch bag and sporting clothes that were both new to his brothers at some point in time; and Cole...well...he didn't officially begin school the same day as the others.  That's how my homeschool program rolls.  It seems the closest thing I have to document them together around the time school started was a picture on a dock at the lake after a day of fishing.  Summer hair and all.

And although I may have missed that picture that is requisite in most households, I can't help but think of the real smiles my boys flash when my camera isn't in their face.  Like when they've driven to town alone for the first time.  Or when they've caught their biggest large mouth bass ever.  Or when they've outrun both their brothers, even though they're the youngest of 3.  Those are the smiles I truly love.  

As my Facebook newsfeed filled up with back-to-school shots of all my friends' kids this year...holding chalkboards and signs and all sorts of creative things to signify the momentous occasion...I realized I hadn't yet shopped for groceries to pack lunches. Whoops.
And I forgot a few (or more) things on the school supply list.  Whoops again.
And I had better wake up those kids and stop looking at all the perfect ones on Facebook, because we were going to have to try and do something with that summer hair.

But if there is such a thing as a successful summer, I will use that as retaliation against my first-day-of-school shortcomings.  Because it was a good summer...

I learned that those boys of mine can make hay without any help from dad.  From checking the fields for moisture, to mowing, raking, and baling, and hiring a crew to put it up in the barn.

I watched endless cannonballs into grandma's pool, and when bloody noses happened, the jumping didn't slow down one bit.  Boys and girls sure are different.

I swept up hay off the kitchen floor.  Lots of it.

I watched one son overcome a fear of driving the tractor in small-town traffic. 

I learned that lavender oil is the best stuff ever when you unknowingly stick your hand into a nest of angry wasps.

I swept up more hay off the kitchen floor.  And bought a new broom because I wore the old one out.

I was reminded of the blessing of this place we call home when we welcomed a busload of church kids who spent the weekend camping in our pastures.

I realized, for the first time, the deep love my boys have for the tradition of an annual family camping trip...full of cousins and swimming and late night ice cream.

I swept with my new broom.  And I thought to myself that the source of all this hay on my floor was worth it.  And I smiled as I swept (most of the time).

I learned that in 14 years of parenting, I understand now more than ever the importance of my job as a mom.  It doesn't matter if they're 7, 11, or 14...kids need their mom, and kids need to know that they come before the many distractions that life throws our way.  Being a mom is a precious gift, and one of the best things we can do is make sure our kids know that.

...And once the first day of school was over, I watched 3 brothers gather in one bedroom and wrestle around as they talked about their day, and my eyes filled with tears as I thought about their friendship.

As I think about it, I'm pretty okay without the staged picture that would've caused undue whining and arguing. I'll take that lake picture over any other.  It represents so many good things.  
     Long days of farming, fishing, sunshine...
     Working, playing, laughing, even fighting...
     Three boys of mine who were 14, 11, and 7, and won't be again.  
Yes, I will happily let that picture mark "a day just before the first day of school".  It's a better fit for us this year...summer hair and all.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Speed of a Tractor


 It was just after 9pm last night when Keith called and asked if I could help him shuttle tractors and equipment back to our house from a field about 15 miles away.  All the boys were still gone on a trip with grandma for a few days, so I'd been racing around like a crazy lady, trying to get things done while I had time alone.  When the phone rang, I had just finished my mental list of things to do before bedtime, and it was looking like I had a few hours to go.  Now, because of that phone call, I would have to slow way down...to the speed of a tractor, in fact...and leave everything else for later.

The next thing I knew, it was 10pm and I was driving...windows down on a 70 degree night... behind the tractor and baler down the back roads.  Even at that hour, the glow of remaining sunshine coming from behind the distant mountains made the western sky look almost like a reverse rainbow.  Overhead was dark blue, and ahead of me it was light green, then yellow, finally fading into a glow of orange and red.  I drove along, eating fresh-picked blueberries from a bowl on the seat beside me.  As we passed houses and barns and pastures and wooded areas, the smells changed...each of them a reminder of this season I love so much.  Fresh cut grass and sweet things in bloom, mixed in with the heavy smell of cow manure. I'd say you have to acquire an appreciation for that last one. :)  There was just enough distance between my car and the tractor ahead of me that I could hear other tractors in the distance, crickets everywhere, and a few kids laughing from their yards.

By the time we got home, that reverse rainbow was gone; above me, the sky  had gotten darker and was now filled with stars.  I realized if I'd been driving at my normal speed, or if I'd never left the house in the first place, I would've missed all those things...the sounds, the smells, and the scenery at that time of night.  It's rare for me to sit long enough to appreciate things like that, and suddenly I was glad I had gotten the phone call.  I was glad I had slowed down to drive the speed of a tractor.

Today I was following Keith again; this time down a short stretch of road, when a man in a green minivan raced up behind me.  Within moments, he was throwing his hands in the air...swerving around and irritated by being slowed down.  When he couldn't take it anymore, he passed us, veering so far to the left of the road that he was half into the ditch....dust and rocks flying as he crashed through low branches along the way.  My guess is it would have done that man some good to slow down and drive at a tractor pace for awhile.

I suppose there are some good things to be learned from last night.  First, it's amazing how God blesses us in unexpected ways when we say yes to helping someone out.  It never fails that putting the needs of another before our own brings goodness to us along the way.  Also, have you stopped to notice the landscape in the place you call home?  Beauty is everywhere.  The world we live in is just the most remarkable creation, no matter where you are.  And yes, the tractor.  The thing that made me slow down.  The next time you're driving on a country road and you come upon a tractor, don't pass it...poke along for a bit.  Slow down, and enjoy life at that speed for just a little while. You'll be glad you did.