Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Yet another benefit to unemployment—fishing. John’s been itching to go fishing for quite awhile now and, although, trout season opened months ago, it’s been hard to imagine fishing in the cold weather we’ve had until recently. But since we have been having more mild temperatures more consistently, John was ready to get started. Since it was going to be just him with the boys he decided to go to a park close by that has a nice size lake (fortunately for us, there are several of those near us). That way, if the going got rough, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to come home. Both John and Aidan were successful but August, not so much. When I asked John why he thought August didn’t catch anything, especially since he had told me about all the fish that people around them were catching, John’s response was, “Well, you have to keep the hook in the water long enough to catch something.” Fair enough. Evidently, August was more interested in catching the baby ducklings that were waddling all around rather than in fishing. Each to his own, I suppose.
The bird that you see pictured is a black crowned night heron that stayed perched above the boys as they fished. Kind of a haunting figure, to say the least.
And the egg next to Aidan’s hand is one, of many duck eggs that were littered all around the edge of the lake. Evidently, it’s the birthing season for the mallards.
I’m beginning to find that, as much as I enjoy birdwatching throughout the entire year, the migratory periods are incredibly thrilling. The surprise of seeing a bird that you almost never get to see is just so much fun. We have had two of these recently here in
Our other migratory spotting has been a clan of rose breasted grosbeaks (we’ve now counted three pairs, male and female) that have essentially hunkered down in the backyard and proceeded to eat continually of our bountiful supply of safflower seed for the last three days. They must have one long leg of their journey left that they are beefing up for. That’s fine with us because they are beautiful to watch.
We recently made the rounds to some garage sales. Now, we are not “regulars” in the garage sale world but that might just have to change. We set out with the intention of finding the boys some warm weather clothes since all of our non-winter clothes are in the back of our storage unit, completely unreachable. (Yes, I was being very optimistic about how long we would be in our temporary living arrangement and thus I didn’t think through the fact that we would need to have access to our stored clothes) Anyway, we set out with that goal however we were quickly derailed. First of all, August has been begging for a soccer ball and we have said off and on that we would get him one “very soon.” Well, soon turned into later and he was not letting us forget it. So, we picked up a real leather soccer ball for 75¢. But then we stumbled across a microscope set that came with all but two or three pieces of the very extensive accoutrements. It was $4. Trying to take on the attitude of a veteran bargain shopper (since I’m still practicing) I quickly determined that $4 was most definitely too much to pay for a garage sale microscope. For crying out loud, weren’t people trying to get rid of this stuff? They should be giving it away! I put it down and walked away. But as I walked around looking at the endless piles of crap, I never really took my eyes off of the microscope. If I momentarily got distracted by a macramé plant holder or a 1970’s magazine collection and I saw anything that resembled movement in the direction of the microscope, I found my heart rate increasing and my palms sweaty and I would find an excuse to get closer to the “too expensive” microscope. At one point, when I tried to let go of the whole idea of the thing and I imagined someone else taking it home, I almost let out a yelp of heartbreak. This was getting ridiculous. I marched over, picked up the microscope triumphantly and announced to Aidan that we were about to purchase our first piece of science equipment. “Cool!” he said. My earlier feelings of triumph escalated to a full blown coup when, later in the day, while looking through one of his catalogs, Aidan found the exact microscope that we had purchased price listed at $70! The exact microscope! Yea for me!
As you can see from the pictures, both of the boys were very excited to get busy with the equipment. Aidan made it very clear to August that this was his “chemistry set” and that he had to be very careful if he was going to use it. “In fact, I will tell you what you can and can’t play with. There are some very fragile things in here and I don’t want you to break any of it, “ saith the new science nerd, Aidan.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
And I am so thankful.
Thankful for the gift of being able to ease into our days with routines that are quiet and calm, not hectic and frenzied. Thankful for the gift of time that allows us the opportunity to determine what we do next rather than being directed by another’s imposed schedule.
Such is the gift of unemployment, I suppose. And, believe me, I am daily looking for the gifts that lie hidden within this time of waiting and watching. Since the boys and I have had the pleasure of John’s presence for the last four months we have also had the unique opportunity to weave the patterns of our days together. I’m growing awfully fond of having John with us and it will be a huge adjustment when he is away from the house for large chunks of time during the day. It has caused me to think about how this time of transition is having a big impact on my understanding of our family’s approach to homeschooling. Although the plan has been for John to be the primary wage earner while I take on the bulk of the homeschooling responsibilities, our experience of being together a lot has caused me to stop looking at it as so cut and dry. As our days play out I find that it’s not always that I will be this pivotal figure that will make things happen. When we are simply living, things are happening. Our choice to homeschool is really becoming a lifestyle choice. The incredible truth is this: the four of us really enjoy being together and in that togetherness, we also manage to engage in both individual and communal activities. So we find ourselves, more often than not, trying to figure out how to fashion our days so that we can be together as much as possible.
One would think that all this togetherness would be enough to drive a person crazy. And there are moments when that is true. But most moments find me incredibly grateful for all that I have been given. May it only continue to be so.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in the water.
- Loren Eisley
So, in all of our musings about what kind of house we might want or where we might want to get some land, the boys and I have held fast to one small prayer request:
“God, wherever you lead us, please give us a good climbing tree.”
Our appeal is pure and simple. We just want to climb. And perch. And gaze at the clouds through the leaves. And daydream. A tree fit to hold a house or fort would be an abundant gift. And two trees in close proximity that would allow for the hanging of a hammock—paradise!
Well, today, the boys and I came up with one more request, if we might be so bold.
“One more thing, God… a creek would be fantastic!”
It started with our visits to various natural areas. The draw to the water was undeniable. And the need to throw things into said water, irresistible. I began to realize that if my boys could just have access to water, they might never ask to watch television again. It has now become one of my requirements for where we settle down.
Today, we tried to satisfy our hunger for a water source by going to the park near my parent’s house. This is the same park where we had our awesome sledding adventures earlier in the year. It’s a wonderful park, with a great playground, lots of open fields, a winding path throughout, and a “creek.” I use the term loosely, since it is mainly a large storm drain that is fed by the surrounding neighborhood’s gutters. But I believe that, originally, there was some natural flowing of water that took place near and around the existing “creek.” To my boys in their current suburban setting, however, it is definitely a creek. And when you climb down among the bushes and rocks and flowing water and block the nearby houses from your view, you can imagine that you our smack dab in the middle of
This is what we observed:
*Newly arrived Catbirds drinking from little pools of water
*Large boulders and smaller rocks in the creek bed, chock full of fossils
*A mama squirrel carrying a baby in her mouth in order to relocate her to a new nest
*A Red Tailed Hawk land on a tree just above the above mentioned squirrel nest strategizing how to steal that new baby squirrel (the mama squirrel was able to keep the hawk at bay)
*A daddy cardinal singing his heart out—the boys have now learned his song by heart and can recognize it just by hearing it
*That creek water in the middle of April is very cold—but it is still worth it to “accidentally” slip your foot into the water so that you can just take your shoes off and get wet with abandon
It was a good day.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
This past weekend John, Grandpa, Aidan, August and I visited the August A. Busch (Yes, Aug-Dog’s namesake!) Memorial Conservation Area to participate in the Wetlands for Kids event, sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and Ducks Unlimited (DU). The event aims to “introduce children to various aspects of the natural world.” For us, most of what we saw was not our first introduction, but we could still enjoy ourselves and learn some things along the way. We saw live birds of prey, snakes, frogs, and turtles. We watched retriever dogs demonstrate their fetching abilities and we sampled some delicious fried catfish caught right from a
If you look at Aidan’s head in the picture you’ll notice the free hat he received when registering for his Ducks Unlimited Greenwing membership. He and August both got one and boy, were they excited. I guess we can officially live in the country now since my boys are the proud owners of camouflage hats!
These pictures aren’t recent, they are from our last snowstorm in March but I forgot to post them back then. I wanted to share some of the beautiful photos that my camera enables me, who has no photographic training whatsoever, to take. There are certain buttons I can push and certain angles that I can position myself in that will then, miraculously, cause shots like these limbs covered in ice crystals to emerge. All from my beloved little digital camera that I dropped on the driveway--which popped off the button you must push in order to take pictures—which now requires me to push a toothpick into a teeny exposed hole, where the aforementioned button used to be, simply in order to be able to take a picture. Amazing.
I still want a digital Canon Digital Rebel XT. But that's another story.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Well, this year, we decided to give natural dyes a go for our Easter eggs. It was fun researching what items might lend themselves to various colors and we decided to keep it simple. We chose yellow onion skins, beets, spinach, blueberry juice and coffee. We put the onion skins, beets and spinach each in its own saucepan, covered it with water to about half an inch over the bunch and then brought it to a low boil for about 30 minutes. The only uncooperative ingredient was the spinach so, after about an hour of boiling and simmering and still no real color, we added some tumeric to make a yellowish-green color. The onion skins and beets fared beautifully. The blueberry juice came from a can of blueberries that we planned to use in muffins, so we simply strained off the juice and kept the blueberries. We didn’t do anything to the juice but add some water to thin it out. And the coffee dye was made by simply dumping old coffee grounds into hot water. We then placed all of the dyes into separate stainless steel bowls, added our eggs and then placed them in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, we pulled the eggs out of the dye and were pleasantly surprised at our final product. In the picture above, going clockwise and starting with the dark orange colored eggs, you see the results of the onion skins, blueberry juice, beets, coffee grounds and the spinach/tumeric mixture. By far, the most visually interesting were the blueberry eggs. The way the different eggs took the dye made for very random patterns with an almost etched appearance, in places. Perhaps the most surprising color was the orange from the onion skins. The picture doesn’t do its richness and depth much justice but they were truly beautiful.
When reflecting on the experience I kept trying to figure out why I enjoyed these eggs so much. They looked nothing like eggs I’ve dyed in the past and, in fact, differed greatly from colors that we traditionally associate with Easter. But then it came to me. The colors of these eggs were so satisfying. I think there was something magic in pulling out a color that was hidden within these foods I see on a regular basis. It was like watching a butterfly emerge from its chrysalis after having watched the caterpillar spin itself away. Of course, the caterpillar had an allure and color of its own, but lurking within was beauty unknown. Perhaps there is something of a lesson for me among these revelations. What beauty lies within me, untapped and unknown?
“Earth’s crammed with heaven.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
"Today is the day when bold kites fly,
When cumulus clouds roar across the sky.
When robins return, when children cheer,
When light rain beckons spring to appear.
Today is the day when daffodils bloom,
Which children pick to fill the room,
Today is the day when grasses green,
When leaves burst forth for spring to be seen."
- Robert McCracken, Spring
This past Friday provided a most typical March day. Full of the kind of sunshine that foreshadows the sweetness of Spring while also staying true to its roots—full of wind. We knew bad weather was coming so we took off for a really neat park less than two miles from my parents’ house.
We went to one of the bigger, open fields and attempted to fly our kites. We found that we have been spoiled over the years by flying kites at the beach. That isn’t work at all. The sea breezes pick up your kite and take over. Our experience here was, despite the gusting March winds, sustained wind is your friend when kite flying. Otherwise, you are running, a lot. Oh, well. We got the kites up for a little bit and then just proceeded to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. And the sculptures.
I just had to take a picture of this beautiful vegetable. The striking red stems burst with so much color that they simply can’t contain themselves, spilling their joy and lifeblood into the leaves, as well. Color is playing a more important role in my enjoyment of vegetables and these days, it seems the brighter, the better. The Halloween orange of the sweet potato…ahh! The verdure of spring asparagus…heaven! And my new favorite vegetable, one that I couldn’t stand to have pass before my nose as a child, the blood red/purple beet…simply looking at its beating center makes me happy, truly!
I long for the days when these vegetables are a part of my own landscape--for the summers when the sunburned red of tomatoes will fill my window sills or when the lovely mix of inky black compost and summer squash coat my kitchen sink.
These images, both of my present and future dinner plate, fill my heart with a contentment that is new to me. When I muse about what life could be like for John, Aidan, August and myself—simple country living, growing our own food, living and learning together—I feel so grounded. As if I am being pulled closer to the dust from which I came while simultaneously being nudged from above into a life groove most befitting my true self.
May I only be worthy of such a calling.
“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm.
One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery,
and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
Remember, I said Spring was coming soon. Obviously, it’s not here yet.
March seems to be roaring in like a lion, that’s for sure. Yes, the weekend was unseasonably warm but it was also incredibly windy. It’s apparent, now, that the wind was the harbinger, not of spring, but of something else entirely.
As the picture indicates, we received something around 9 inches of snow. As it fell, you truly felt as if you had woken up and found yourself inside a giant snow globe (thank you Leah for that perfect description). The flakes were huge, heavy and dense and most of all, they were relentless. Some areas even experienced thunder snow, which is a weather phenomenon that is remarkable to behold. We watched with wonder as each hour passed, and we began to believe that it might just snow forever. We ventured out on two different occasions, both of which involved shoveling the driveway. This snow, unlike the last storm, did not make for great sledding in our yard and the roads were not yet at a stage where we felt we could drive to the great sledding hill. So instead, we just all kind of did our own thing in the snow.
I always just love to stand and listen. The quiet that the snow ushers in is of an almost holy quality and one that I revel in, every time. After awhile, the birds got used to me being there and they would venture back to the feeders, within feet of me. At one point, you could see the tracks from the bunny that lives under my parents’ deck, but then they disappeared under the continuous accumulation. This was a snow day to the umpteenth degree.
We finished off the afternoon with some homemade snow ice cream, made by John. It was delicious!
Spring has 16 more days before it is required to show up. We'll see.
Earth, my dearest, I will. Oh believe me, you no longer
need your springtimes to win me over - one of them,
ah, even one, is already too much for my blood.
Unspeakably, I have belonged to you, from the first.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies, 9th, 1923
This past weekend was so beautiful that we decided to take the boys out to Susan Park. This is a
The boys were drawn to the water. They spent most of their time throwing things into it, fishing things out of it or jumping over rivulets of it. Aidan, at one point, leaping as he ran, told me that the air was “like heaven.” Amen, brother. It was good to soak up the sunshine, feel the wind on my cheek and know that spring is coming… soon.
I’m a little behind on posting, so please forgive me for this delayed blog.
Last week we did, what I guess you could call, our first “official” homeschool activity. Even though we are not doing anything official, in any capacity whatsoever, resembling homeschooling, this was an opportunity that we absolutely didn’t want to miss--especially since it is so dependent on the season. Another added bonus was that John was able to attend with us so it was truly a family event.
The demonstration was held on one of the Conservation Department’s numerous natural areas, which are protected by law and maintained by the Department. It was only a 30 minute drive from the house which was wonderful. We learned how to identify sugar maples and that cold nights and warmer days make for the best harvesting of sap. Our particular morning was certainly cold. The previous night’s low was 24 and by or so, it was just barely 32 degrees. The rest of the week would bring warmer temperatures though and we couldn’t help but think that it was definitely “sugaring” weather.
We then walked over to the “sugar bush” which is the area where the tapping of the trees is most numerous. There were probably about 10-12 trees with buckets hanging from them. We were all asked to go retrieve a bucket and from all of our buckets we only managed to yield one gallon of sap. The sap looks like water, thin and clear, and in fact, is about 97% water. Because of its high water content, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. We were then shown the process of boiling down the sap over an evaporator. It is an incredibly labor intensive job, taking about an hour in the evaporator for every gallon of sap you are boiling. I have a whole new appreciation for this product and I no longer feel that the price is exorbitant but rather it is reflective of the time and energy invested in the glorious finish. It makes me wonder why it doesn’t cost even more, honestly.
Our last stop was at a picnic table topped with two trays of waffle pieces. Everyone was instructed to sample a piece from each tray and to try and identify which one was dribbled with real maple syrup and which one was clothed with the imposter (aka, Mrs. Butterworth’s). I knew right away but I waited to see what Aidan had to say. He guessed the same as what I was thinking and when I asked him how he knew which one was the real maple syrup, he responded with, “Because it tasted good!” That’s my boy! August, on the other hand, was so pumped to be having waffles in the middle of the day that he just smiled continuously while he munched.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Well, John and I decided to take advantage of the grandparents' offer of overnight babysitting and we stole away for 19 hours in order to celebrate our 14th dating anniversary. This anniversary has always been special for us and we usually try to do something special in order to mark it. This year, because it was so last minute, we ended up using Priceline and we got a 4 star hotel room for a VERY good price. As it works with Priceline, you don't know exactly where you will be staying until you purchase the hotel room that meets your specifications and the price that you are willing to pay. We ended up with a room in downtown St. Louis at the Hyatt at Union Station. Although no longer used as a train station, the building has been restored to its original glory and it is a shopping and restaurant center for tourists and residents alike. It was really beautiful, somewhat glamorous, and simply wonderful to get away.
Now I have to come to grips with the fact that a child of mine is not dependent on my breasts anymore, for the first time in 5 1/2 years! This weaning process is just as much my experience as it is August's. I was definitely ready to "leave the vine" and I trusted that God would give me the insight to know when it was best for August to leave. So, although it wasn't child led weaning, I do feel like it was relationship led weaning. And you should see this little guy now. He seems to be emboldened by this experience and is showing himself to be even more of an independent guy than we already knew him to be. I will miss the nursing, really I will. But I am incredibly excited about this next phase.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.
In my parents' front yard there is the most interesting flowering tree that, when bare and covered in snow, provides a beautiful contrast in darkness and light. It was on this tree, when the snow was falling at its fiercest, that this cardinal lighted on the deepest branch. And as the snow blew and swirled and threatened to cover the world, the cardinal began to sing. And sing and sing and sing.
Friday, February 15, 2008
“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us—and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a gift of grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful man knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
--From Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to your God to order and provide; In every change God faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: your God will undertake to guide the future, as in ages past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.
--Be Still, My Soul
It truly is an amazing thing, putting your faith in God. My journey of faith has seen many twists and turns, ups and downs, questions and answers. And the last year and a half of my life has been no exception. Making the decision to move to
I am now beginning to understand, in a new way, why the Lord can be trusted.
This week we learned that my mom has breast cancer. This, we absolutely did not see coming. Why would we have? True, one of the big factors influencing our move was my parents’ known health concerns (my dad’s heart and my mom’s Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, or CLL) but those were, for the most part, issues that weren’t life threatening. Their health concerns were more issues related to general aging and they simply served to remind us that life is short. We wanted to make sure that we could enjoy time with my parents while they still “had their health.” Of course, by moving closer, we would then also be in a position to be more fully involved when and if their health required assistance from others.
Now, suddenly, everything seems to have been put on fast forward.
But I am so grateful.
Grateful for our decision to go ahead and move before John had a job lined up, even though, in some respects, that could be viewed as unwise.
Grateful for my parents’ willingness to take us into their home, despite the close quarters and many sacrifices required on their part.
And simple gratefulness for the everyday minutia that, at times, can seem stifling, but in hindsight, is a comfort and a joy.
Throughout this journey of the past year and a half, when we didn’t know when we would actually move or where we would stay when we got here or where John would work or… the list goes on… I have clung to a verse from Acts 17:26b that reads:
“…and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”
But I think I need to add the verse from the hymn above to my daily mantra:
Leave to your God to order and provide; In every change God faithful will remain.
As much as this move has been hard on many levels, I look at this picture and I remember why we made the decision that we did. “Hanging out” with Grandpa is now an everyday event, not just a seasonal treat. Although August and Grandpa have their differences from time to time—August being his strong willed self and Grandpa being set in his ways—they still have strong affection for one another. When I think about how far apart their life stages are I’m amazed that they are able to connect in as many ways that they do. But that’s the beauty of this little arrangement that we have. My dad brings to the table a lifetime of experiences, both good and bad, that make him an incredible source of stories, lessons and general magic. And Mr. August, well, he just can’t help but infuse every day with electricity and all around mischief and that just serves to help all of us take ourselves a little less seriously. I hope that moments, like the one captured here, are being tattooed onto August’s young brain. They are the stuff that dreams are made of.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
I can't tell you how much this picture reminds me of my own childhood. There is my Aidan dancing with his grandma, but rewind the clock thirty years and that would have been me and my mom. I still blame my mom for my inability to master social dance as an adult because, although she taught me the jitterbug, the chachacha and the waltz, I was always the "male" to her female. When John and I took a short tango class it was incredibly frustrating because I kept stepping off with the wrong foot, not to mention I was always taking the lead. My grown-up problems notwithstanding, I loved dancing with my mom. She had a song for everything and she would sweep you up in her arms and twirl you around the kitchen while she sang. Now, watching her dance with my two boys, I see that she obviously just can't help but dance. What has been so neat to watch is how her complete lack of self consciousness frees up Aidan to find his dancing feet. And find it he does. We found him doing soft shoe with a cane the other day! What in the world? I hope the confidence he gains from letting his hair down with my mom stays with him for a lifetime.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Well, this week the big snow finally came. Actually, the biggest snowfall in one day in St. Louis in 15 years. For three days straight, John, Aidan, August and I played in it in every way imaginable. Sledding was by far the favorite activity, but the boys also helped out with the shoveling, as well. We introduced the boys to the glory of a great sledding hill, not far from my parents house, and a new generation of sledders was born. At least as far as Aidan was concerned. He was relentless in his desire to master the hills and experiment with the different sleds that we had at our disposal. But August, our dare devil August who knows no fear, would have nothing to do with sledding. He was content to sit at the top of the hill and watch us have all the fun. Yeah, no sledding for August. And then we learned what the deal was--he was holding out for a snowboard. There were a couple of young boys who were attempting to navigate the bumps and drops of the monstrous hill and August was taking it all in. That's right. August was not going down any hill unless he was on a snowboard. That's our August. None of this pedestrian sledding business, no. Bring on the reckless, daring snowboarding. So, John found an abandoned, broken down plastic sled, cut it up just right, and fashioned August his own "snowboard." Now we have two snow bunnies. Too bad it's already starting to melt.
So, here I am. Not in the emotional state that I imagined I would be at this point, but nevertheless, I'm here.
"Here" is St. Louis, Missouri. In my parents house. It's kind of strange to be without a home of our own. Granted, we shared a home with one or more families for 8 years while living in community and, thus, did not have a home of our own that whole time. But living with your parents is a whole different ball game. And to be living in temporary quarters in the place you moved to in order to start a new phase of life is just, well, weird. I've had temporary quarters before, just like everyone else, but this is different than summer camp or college dorm room "temporary." It really feels like a holding tank. And just like it works when looking through the thick glass of any tank--everything just seems magnified and somewhat distorted. My emotions, my perspective, my well, everything.
So, I'm learning new ways of looking at things. I look at my parents differently now that we live life together 24/7. I now look at this city that I grew up in from the perspective of my experience in Atlanta. And I now look at our future with a new faith, one that is dependent on God for absolutely everything, not just the things that I can't take care of myself.
I'll keep you posted.