Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Baking and Building

Naomi and Josiah helped me make a Van Gogh birthday cake for their Aunt Genelle. We had fun celebrating with her last night and the kids were so proud of their cake (and anxious to eat it)!


For the past few months, Steve has been helping his dad build their retirement home in Lexington, Virginia. They're now nearing the end of their framing, and have a few pictures to post. You can see the front view of the home first, with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, and then the rear view, which reveals both stories.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Clotheslines and Children

One of the joys of my new home is that I have a clothesline in my yard. In Scotland, I had no clothesline and no dryer. I dried our clothes on a rack that hung close to my kitchen ceiling. I would lower it with a pulley system, hang our clothes up, and then pull it back up to the ceiling. The problem was (besides crowding my tiny kitchen when I had to wash sheets), it would often take 24 hours to dry clothes this way, at least during winter and spring.

Thankfully during the summer months in Scotland, I was living in friends' houses, and they had clotheslines. I remember the joy of hanging up my clothes outside in their gardens (yards), and being amazed at how quickly the clothes dried. My friend Kate's garden was particularly pleasant and beautiful, edged with flowering bushes and trees, hanging plants and potted flowers. I loved the moments I spent watering her flowers, playing with the kids, eating lunch or hanging my clothes up to dry there.

My yard now is nothing like Kate's. I'm on a farm, not in a posh Edinburgh home. But hanging my clothes to dry still brings me such peace and joy. I hear cows mooing, bees buzzing, and the creek gurgling. I look up and watch the clouds in a bright blue sky, or notice birds circling above the grassy hills. I feel the comfort of a tall tree's shade and listen to birdsong.

This afternoon Naomi and Josiah helped me hang up the clothes. They handed me clothes-pins and wet articles of clothing, one by one. After I hung up the sheets, though, all help ended. There was a strong wind and the sheets blew like large flags. Naomi and Josiah thought this was hilarious and terrific fun. They laughed and laughed, running back and forth under the blowing sheets. They compared them to tents. They discovered that they could put their stuffed animals in the corners of the fitted sheet and watch them swing in the wind.

Meanwhile I was still enjoying my work, and marveling at the delights of childhood. How much longer will my children find happiness in such small things? For now, I'm grateful for their childhood because in many ways, it makes me more like a child myself. Like when I make wet footprints on our front porch with them, or find myself picking wildflowers (weeds) to give Naomi, or exclaiming with excitement over the recent growth of our avocado seedling.

There are many, many times when I feel I can't handle this parenting business anymore. When Naomi is increasingly disrespectful. When Josiah is rough with Ethan for the millionth time, despite our modeling gentle behavior. When Naomi cuts her own hair, or Josiah draws on the walls and furniture after just being spanked for that a few days earlier. When "yuck" is the only reaction I get to my homemade dinners. When I lose my temper again and again, and treat my kids in ungodly ways.

But I thank the Lord for joys like playing in the sheets outside, so that I don't give up entirely. They refresh me momentarily and remind me that parenting does have its blessings, despite the struggles. Thank you, God, for clotheslines and children...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Science Verse, by Jon Scieszka

"Why Scientists Don't Write Nursery Rhymes"

Mary had a little worm.
She thought it was a chigger.
But everything that Mary ate,
Only made it bigger.

It came with her to school one day,
And gave the kids a fright,
Especially when the teacher said,
"Now that's a parasite."

Hey diddle diddle, what kind of riddle
Is this nature of light?
Sometimes it's a wave,
Other times particle...
But which answer will be marked right?

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack jump over the combustion reaction of O2 + heat + fuel
to form CO2 + light + heat + exhaust.

Good night, sleep tight,
Don't let the bedbug,
tick, or louse
suck blood from you, hatch its eggs,
and then develop the larvae on you
... all right?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I Want to Marry You

I was proposed to last night! My three year old son came up to me while we were eating dinner at Mimi and Papa's house. "I want to marry you, Mommy," Josiah said.

He has said this many times before, to me and Naomi both. It's his recent way of saying "I love you." Usually Naomi replies that she wants to marry him, too. I often reply with some explanation of who can marry who, or just say that I love him back.

But last night, I responded, "Okay! When's the wedding? Do you have a date?" He looked a little flustered. He said, "No, far away." So I asked, "How old are you going to be when we get married?" And he answered, "Four."

I asked him if I should go buy a white wedding dress, and he said that no, I should wear a BLUE wedding dress. Then I asked him if he had a ring ready to give me at our wedding. He said he had one at home, and that it's a 'pink dolphin ring' (plastic, I'm sure!)

On a side note, since our citrus plants successfully sprouted, I decided to plant a few more things. We now have basil and tomatoes already sprouting and are hoping to see some sign of our sweet peppers and cilantro soon. Our sweet potato and avocadoes keep changing, but no sign of green yet.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Sorrow

I would guess that many around the world have now heard about our university shooting this morning. I've read that it is the deadliest shooting of its kind in American history.

These events always make me so sad, even if it's only one or two dead, as in the Amish school shooting last year. But this time, 32 were killed and it happened quite close to us. Blacksburg, VA, is only just over an hour away from where we live.

A recurring statement that I've read from students at Virginia Tech goes something like, "This is such a sleepy part of the state. Not much happens here. How could this have happened?" We're out in the country, far away from the highly populated cities like Washington, D.C. and Charlotte, N.C. It feels very safe here.

But nowhere is 'safe.'

My heart mourns for all the families that lost loved ones today. I mourn for the classmates and faculty who have to recover from the shock.

I know evil has always existed (well, not 'always' as in 'eternal,' but you know what I mean) and that people have killed ever since we were created. But it just seems different for a stranger to callously and brutally take the lives of so many people he doesn't even know and doesn't have a reason to hate.

Our only hope is that God reigns, and that he both judges evil and forgives the humble. God, please comfort the weeping tonight...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sleeping With My Daughter's Animals

My kids got to sleep at my in-laws' house tonight (called Mimi and Papa by the kids). This is usually a weekly occurrence, and involves packing pj's, clean clothes, and bedding ... and battling over how many animals/dolls/special items can come, too.

Both Naomi and Josiah almost always feel the need to take armloads of their favorite things with them wherever they go: to church, the park, someone's house, shopping, anywhere!! Even though we've lost things (some temporarily and others permanently), and I always warn the kids that this could easily happen again, they still want to bring their precious things with them (this could be a stuffed animal, a doll, a cap, a book, a bag of colored glass pebbles, pink plastic high-heeled shoes, a gift bag full of dress-up items, a swimsuit, you name it!)

This afternoon I told my children that they could only bring TWO animals/dolls to Mimi and Papa's house. I expected an argument or even a tantrum, especially from my daughter. But instead she looked at me and said, "Mom, will you take care of my animals for me tonight?" I told her I'd be happy to, and to put them in my bed so I could keep them company while she was gone. This completely satisfied her.

So I'm thinking of Naomi as I crawl into bed with Minnie Mouse, pink lamb, pink poodle (on a lead), and whoever else I find under my covers!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Beautiful Spring!!

The kids and I made it back to Virginia greeted by a spectacular Spring! In Washington, D.C. the cherry trees were just exploding with white blossoms. We praised God this morning, too, for our own beautiful country roads, lined with purple trees, new green leaves, yellow and red bushes. Stunning!

We also were greeted by Spring growth inside our house. A few weeks ago, the kids and I were inspired by a Family Fun magazine article on growing indoor plants from fruit pits and seeds. We bought some lemons, grapefruit, sweet potato, and avocados and carefully followed the author's instructions as to how to plant them. The citrus seeds we put in small peat pots, sealed them in ziplock bags, and put them in warm places. We peeled the avocado pits and then put one seed in each pot, half sticking out of the dirt. The sweet potato is suspended by toothpicks, half-submerged in a jar of water.

During the first few weeks, we kept an eye on the various pots, hoping to see some change. But it was still the early days. When we were gone for 9 days, we kept forgetting to ask Steve if anything was happening to our plants. Upon our arrival, though, Naomi's first thought was to find out how the plants were doing.

So even though it was after 11 PM, I checked all our pots and excitedly got the kids out of bed (they weren't asleep yet!) to show them God's handiwork! All of our citrus plants were sprouting little green shoots with tiny leaves. Two pots even had roots already protruding from the bottom. Our sweet potato has new little white rootlets growing into the water. And our avocado seeds are less obvious, but also seem to be changing a little by splitting open.

We bought a few more supplies today and did some more gardening, putting the peat pots into ceramic pots and watering the grapefruit plants with plant food. I love doing hands-on stuff like that with the kids so they can get dirty and see how things work and then have a sense of wonder and accomplishment. Now they have picked seeds right out of a lemon, planted them, and seen how green leaves and white roots come out of the seed (we pulled one out of the dirt to get the full view, and the seed casing was still right there with the stem and root poking out). Now hopefully they'll survive to become nice indoor plants. We'll keep you posted!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Busy on Vacation

Eight days ago, Steve drove the kids and me for three hours to Washington, D.C., where he dropped us off at Dulles Airport. I was taking Naomi (4 1/2), Josiah (3) and Ethan (3 months) with me on a 'vacation' to Chicago (without Steve). My brother Jonathan and his wife Lori had welcomed their second son Ian Calvin Blyth into the world on March 13, in Wisconsin, so I wanted to make the journey to meet him and visit with family and friends.

We've now slept in four different homes, visited with 6 of my friends and 8 of their children (as well as 4 relatives, 2 spouses, 4 cats and one dog), eaten pizza three times and still have three more friends to see before we leave! We've played outside, talked till late at night, gone thrift store shopping, dyed eggs, made s'mores, watered flowers, drawn with sidewalk chalk, eaten popsicles, had Easter egg hunts, and generally just had a lot of fun!!

But I'm tired and shouldn't even be writing this as it's late. I'll report more when I get home. The good news is: it IS possible to travel alone with three small children! And the great news is: friends and family are AWESOME, and it's so good to feel loved and connected again after 5 months of loneliness.