Sunday, October 14, 2012


Nesting is such a weird thing.  It always makes me feel a little bit crazy--having such strong urges to do such random things.  Before Henry was born, all of the boys HAD to have haircuts, and they HAD to all have brand new white undershirt pajama shirts.  Stat.  And the last few days, I've been all in a tizzy about needing to get to the store to buy a Costco-sized pack of batteries, in case the batteries die in our big family flashlight this fall.  This, even though in the last two years that we've lived here, we've only lost power once, and it was out for maybe 30 minutes in the middle of a weekday morning. 

Where do these urges come from?  I know they're supposed to be instinctual, but they don't make a lot of sense to me.  I understand wanting to fill the pantry with food and wanting the house to be clean and warm.  But white pajama shirts?  Haircuts?  Flashlight batteries?  Why does that stuff matter now?  I'm pretty sure the mamas way back in my ancestral line weren't worried about those same details.  It makes me feel a little foolish for fixating on them.

We woke this morning to a huge windstorm.  Justin jumped out of bed and ran out into the storm to stake up our new peach tree (a baby shower gift) and make sure it wasn't pulling up out of the ground (it wasn't).  Then he headed to the store to buy milk for the boys' Sunday cereal, and lo and behold, he was barely out of the driveway five minutes when the power went out.  Aha!  Stupid flashlight battery urges.  At least I felt just the tiniest bit mollified (even though I haven't actually purchased the batteries yet).  Then I hear from the living room:

Cole:  "Okay, you guys!  Come on!  We have to find ways to stay warm!"

(Enter several pairs of boy feet pounding up the wooden staircase.)

Reese:  "Whyyyyy?"
Cole:  "Because we don't have any HEAT!"  (We haven't used our propane heat in a year and a half.....we heat with wood.  And we have several years worth split and stacked undercover on our porch.  Sigh.)

They come back downstairs all wrapped in big sleeping bags and stuff themselves through the kitchen doorway, where I am chopping the leftover baked potatoes from last night's dinner to fry up for them (cereal doesn't fill bellies well in this house). 

Cole:  "Mom!  Can we make a fire?"
Me:  "Why?"
Cole:  "Because it's SO COLD!  And we need to stay warm!  There's NO POWER!"
Me:  "Honey, we don't use our heat anyway.  It's fine."
Cole:  "Oh.  I know.  But I'm still cold.  Can I make a fire?"  (huddling in sleeping bag).
Me:  "No.  I know the power's out but really, it's so warm.  Go check the thermostat."

He shuffles out and yells from the living room, "Thermostat says it's 68!"
Yeah, no.  No way this pregnant mama is going to okay a fire in the woodstove when it is already nearly 70 degrees....

However.  I did tell them that we could light one in the kitchen stove/cooktop so that I could still make their potatoes and cook up omelettes for Justin and myself in the cast iron skillet.  They ran around like crazy, bumping into each other, arguing and yelling to "Get the wood!"  "Find the matches!"  "No I want to do it, Mom said I could do it!"  "WE'RE OUT OF MATCHES!"  (We weren't.)  Thank the Lord it wasn't an actual emergency.  Justin walked in to the middle of this mayhem and the boys all dashed to the table, desperate to fill their aching bellies now that we were in Survival Mode and Actual Lives were at stake.  Cole dug the Rice Krispies out of the cabinet and I heard him mutter to himself as he moved the dried fruit out of the way, "Oh, PRUNES!  Good.  We still have prunes," and give a deep contented sigh.  As though the September bounty from our plum trees would buy us just a few more precious moments at the bitter end.

So.....survival instincts.  It's possible we may be just a bit off-base with the things we find important.  I'm shaking my head just remembering the boys wrapped in sleeping bags and running around the house in chaos in a 70 degree house full of food....but the truth is, the things I'm worried about aren't a whole lot better.  We adapted this morning and were pleased to discover what we COULD do...we ate hot, fried potatoes, veggie omelettes, and we ground our coffee in the mortar and pestle before putting it through the press.  We made a mental note to replace the tea kettle soon, since it's obviously made for electric stoves--the handle is plastic and gets a little more melted every time we have to heat it on the cooktop.  We lit an oil lamp so that we could see to cook in the dark corner of the kitchen.  And then we sat and dreamed a little about being more self-sufficient and less reliant on the electrical stuff we take for granted (Sean sniffed about not being able to play video games----he doesn't play video games anyway).  Baking bread and cooking a chicken in the crockpot are both on my list of things to do today...and both of those would have been ousted had the power not come back on just a few minutes ago.  Oh and the LAUNDRY!  What would I do with my piles of dirty laundry if I didn't have power?  Certainly we would own a LOT fewer clothes.  Power's back on now....rainy-day video games back in full swing...but I'm thankful for the chance to reevaluate my life yet again and consider changes that might make our footprint just a wee bit smaller. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Today's Project

It is a testament to how chaotic my last 12 years have been that I have no photos, anywhere.  No albums and even very few printed copies....even my Pre-Digital photos are still hidden away inside of their little film canisters.  Somewhere.  In the hustle and bustle of 7 kids in 12 years of marriage and multiple houses....well, photographs have certainly taken a back seat to daily life.  It all came to a head recently when Reuben, at the tender age of six, lovingly hugged my expired passport to his chest and said, "Mom, when you die, this is the picture I am going to look at to remember you."  I laughed.  That picture was taken when I was seventeen and blonde....I am 60 pounds heavier now, 5 months pregnant with my seventh child; my hair has darkened over the years to a deep brown and I wear glasses instead of contacts.  In short, that picture looks absolutely nothing like me. 

But when I asked him why in the WORLD he would choose that picture as a remembrance of me, he stared at me aghast and said, "well, what else would I look at, there are no other pictures of you!"  Convicted.

So today, as the little ones nap and the big ones snuggle in front of a movie (truly one of the only ways to ensure a quiet house for naptime in our tiny, tiny house), I will be sorting through piles and piles of digital photos and picking out my favorites to send to the printer.  All of my boys adore looking at old pictures, and I'd love to make each of them their own album of their "story" to gift them with at Christmas.  But Christmas is only (!) 4 1/2 short months away, and in that time, we have holidays, the start of school, a new baby, birthdays, and plenty of messy daily life to get in the way of projects I hope to give in December.  Today seems like as good a day to start as any.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Snips and Snails

Quote of the Day:

"Reuben! Reuben!  Let's play LASER SWORDS!" --Sean, age 4

(Yes.  It really is what you are thinking.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jamie Oliver and Baby #7

Eleven and a half years ago, Justin and I went away for one night to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.  We left at home (with his Gramma and auntie) our 2 1/2 month old infant son.  (We packed the pump and several glass jars.)  We stopped at the grocery store before leaving town and bought fresh October whole crab and a plank of salmon, then skipped away to a beautiful vacation home owned by relatives out in the San Juan Islands....experiencing the oddity of driving in the opposite direction from our baby and knowing we were doing something that was important for our marriage. 

We arrived at the house in the evening, barbecued our salmon and cooked a smattering of gorgeous fresh veggies, then photographed our food and each other sitting out on the deck, just a stone's throw from the water.  We exchanged our "paper" gifts and talked about our son.  We sat on the bed in our jammies and ate crab dipped in melted butter.  And we giggled when we turned on the cable TV (a luxury for us) and discovered a cooking show called The Naked Chef.

Of course we fell in love with Jamie nearly instantly, once we saw the magic he could make from a few simple, fresh, local ingredients.  We don't have access to television and we've caught very little of that magic over the years, but he remains a special figure to us.  We spent our first anniversary with him!

So a couple of years ago, on a cold Christmas morning, I was delighted to open an oversized package in my stocking and discover a cookbook:  Jamie's Dinners.  I was even more delighted to look inside and see that our favorite chef had married and had two beautiful babies of his own.  I still remember the bliss of that moment:  Christmas morning breakfast was in the oven, the coffee was brewing, I had my Beloved and all of my sons about me, and all was right with the world.  I wanted to freeze time, sit with my mug of coffee, and read every word of that cookbook cover to cover--twice. 

But Justin was beside me, urging me to continue opening the trinkets of my stocking.  I persisted, relishing the moment, and said No, no, I'm so happy right here, please, this is so much more than I ever could have wished for, let me be.  I'm so happy.  I want for nothing.  He laughed and protested:  But there are gifts for you under the tree!

In the end, he won out.  He had chosen special things and couldn't wait for me to open them.  My children didn't understand how I could look at a Christmas tree brimming with bounty and not want to dive in headfirst.  We enjoyed the gifts of our stockings, we shared breakfast together, and we opened the tree gifts...but when all was said and done, you better believe I found a quiet little corner of the living room and snuggled right back up with my new cookbook.

In February of this year, I was 8 weeks into training for the Seattle Rock and Roll half marathon when I missed a period.  Thinking it was nothing because I was running 5 to 6 miles at a time with no loss of energy, I assured my husband that I must just have the dates wrong or my training was affecting me physically.  But within a matter of weeks, when I began falling asleep on the couch at 9pm every night, he started giving me knowing glances.  I was still unsure.  A new baby?  Really?  When Henry is only 9 months old?  Our usual MO is one year...

In those quiet first weeks when he and I began to adjust to the idea of our family growing again....privately, without involving the children or making it public, taking our time to move through the normal range of emotions....I remembered my cookbook on that crisp December morning and that feeling of wanting to pause time.  For the past seven years, God has been whispering to me about living with open arms, living sacrificially, holding nothing back.  Primarily this has played out in the way that we have perceived our growing family.  I want so much to learn to live with this heart!  I crave a life of listening to that still, small voice and being willing to follow its leading.  It's a long, drawn-out message and though I've made strides, I feel like I have so much further to go.  This was the first time that I felt like I wanted to put my hand up and say Abba, no, it's too much, you have given too much love, these gifts are too great, I am so undeserving.  Leave me in my corner to enjoy what you have given!  ...and I hear him saying, But there is so much more for you under the tree!

Oh, our God is so gracious.  How humbled I feel by the way that he continues to give, and give, and give, even when I am fumbling with what he has already given.  He gave us this land...and we have allowed the grass to get too high and the weeds to overtake the flowerbeds.  He gave us these children, and I misspeak when I attempt to parent them.  He gave me a roof over my head...and its corners have cobwebs.  And the floors need to be swept and mopped.  And my desk is overflowing with papers...

But still he says, Child, there is more for you under the tree.  And I am overwhelmed at his goodness.  I repent of my inadequacies and I thank him for new mercies every morning.  To get up, to see the sun rising, to dust myself off and to try again to make what he has given into something beautiful.  I want it to be beautiful.  And in the midst of all of it, I find an inkling of communion with him, and I feel like I get to experience the tiniest bit of the love that he has for me.