Saturday, February 28, 2009

Let it Rot!

Last summer we had so much fun with our very first vegetable garden. We grew corn, carrots, 3 kinds of tomatoes, and pumpkins. It was definitely a crash course in vegetable gardening for us and we learned quite a bit from the trial and error of it all. Our garden will be considerably better for it this summer. The carrots turned out crunchy and sweet. They were whimsically gnarled and wrinkly, but that just added to the home-grown goodness of them. Plus, they sorta looked like something out of a fairy tale--an added bonus. What we learned: You must pull a lot of the carrot sprouts early on so that the sprouts you do leave will grow larger carrots. Crowded sprouts = teensy carrots. The tomatoes were out of this world. We had Early Girls, Romas and Yellow Pears. We really lucked out on the tomato crop, as, in our ignorance, we did nothing special and got a bumper crop. Jeff couldn't keep up with the plants' massive growth and was adding chicken wire supports weekly to buttress the new limbs appearing seemingly overnight. What we learned: Start with big tomato cages! The corn was a bust. We only got a few ears exhibiting overall stunted growth and enormous, irregular kernels with the taste and texture of boiled russet potatoes. The stalks attracted swarms of ants for some reason. What we learned: We won't be planting corn again this year! The pumpkins were also a disappointment but that's because we didn't do our research soon enough. The new pumpkins were withering and eventually dying on the vine, much to our bewilderment. Late in the season, we learned it was due to the flowers not being fertilized. We had to manually fertilize the female flowers using the pollen from the male flowers, but by then most of the flowering was over. We got two small pumpkins late in November--both products of manual fertilization. What we learned: Manually fertilize flowers from the get-go. (Oh, and BIG lesson: Don't plant (and let grow) 36 pumpkin seeds...unless you have a few million acres of gardening space...(Yes, I got a little over-excited about growing pumpkins. Forget science fiction novels about a supercomputer evolving intelligence and taking over the world. Pumpkin vines are a much more likely agent of world domination. I thought our house would be engulfed, Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout style. This summer I'll stick to two or three vines...)). So where am I going with this? We thought we'd jump start this summer's garden with some quality soil created through composting. Jay ordered a composting book online called Let It Rot! Today he constructed the composting bin so we could get started. First we had to move our lemon tree (which, interestingly, was sold to us at Home Depot as a lime tree...you can imagine our befuddlement at the first harvest of some very strangely yellow and lemony tasting limes...). It got transplanted (let's all pray it survives) to a sunny spot in the front side yard where it can happily produce lemons. Then Jay got started making the sides. Lots of sawing & drilling. Super manly.
Bug looked on while Daddy worked. Actually, in this photo, she is Beatrix Potter's Jeremy Fisher (we look forward to her daily dramatic interpretation) and the stick is her fishing pole. (She's fishing for minnows, not expecting Jack Sharp the stickleback). Notice that her legs are crossed? That's so the water beetle doesn't tweak the toe of her goloshes. (If you read the book, it will make more sense (and you'll be able to confirm that I spelled goloshes correctly)). The finished sides:
Here is the (mostly) finished project, complete with removable slats for easy rotation of compost. The hinged top will come later after we've acquired some more plywood. Here's where all the composting magic will occur: Let's break for intermission with some random photos of my garden critters: Alrighty then. Let's press on. In goes the steer manure as a starter. Then I got in on the action with a few cuts from a daisy plant, trimmed to make room for the compost bin. We've got some coffee grounds from this morning to go in too. I kid you not; composting is so much fun! I want to go eat a banana just so I can put the peel in there. Hey, maybe I'll make banana bread so I can throw three peels in there! Apparently, even saw dust is compostable. Turns out, babies are not. She's all organic, but no. The book says no.

Life With Bug

Bug is so much fun. I never know what each day will bring. She is so bright and gentle and creative and beautiful. Here are a few videos I've compiled that show a little peek into life with Buggy. I am so blessed to have two of the best friends a girl could ask for who live so close: dfS, and for lack of creativity, dfK. The icing on the cake is that their children are Bug's best friends too. This video is Bug and her friends at the park. It can only be described as untamed silliness and joy--the kind that comes when a nap is a bit overdue and the snacks have metabolized...

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This next video is Bug helping Grandpa wash our van. When I'd come out to check on their progress, she'd say "Mommy! You're going to be so surprised when you see we washed your car!" Nothing like a good surprise.

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Here's a little face time with Bug while she's coloring. I try to draw things out of her while the camera is rolling, but like most children, she is too savvy to be goaded into performing.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Picture Tells It All

From finger painting to face painting:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ode To My Parents

You know what? My parents deserve some recognition, a load of appreciation and a huge batch of gratitude. They have been helping Jay and I since we were married. They've provided support in the form of money, super grandparenting abilities, helping with household improvement projects, lending a sympathetic ear and solicited advice...Come back to super grandparenting abilities: Since the twins were born , they have been here more days out of the week than not, wiping little bottoms, feeding crying mouths, making broccoli-family lunches ("this is the mommy broccoli, the daddy broccoli, and the baby broccoli"--just how Bug likes it), spending afternoons 'chalking' on the driveway, and acting out The Tale of Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter for what feels like forever. (And believe me, pretending to be Jack Sharp the stickleback takes some talent and sustained energy). So I penned this feeble poem for them to demonstrate what life would be like sans Mom & Dad: Without my parents the laundry piles high the dinner is left in the fridge to die sanity's a bust, coffee's a must and the poor dog is left high and dry Without my parents the twins wail away for breakfast, a nap, and a shower I pray frames collect dust (oops, I think I just cussed) Bug watched five hours of TV today! Without my parents the carpets amass dirt no one ever offers to iron Jay's shirt have I made the bed? Not since the first of Feb! I guess a little filth never hurt. Without my parents I'm frazzled and fried pull out my hair or smile? I can't decide but thanks to Mom & Dad the plan is iron-clad: hunker down, relax and enjoy the ride!

Thank you Mom & Dad! XO

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dee & Her Dad Share a Laugh

In this video, Dee and her dad are sharing a special moment. But the truly heartwarming thing about this video is that there is nothing "special" about it. Jay shares moments like these with each of our three children every day. He is a down-in-the-trenches, roll-up-his-sleeves, get-his-hands-messy type of father, and I love him for it. You'll never see Jay on the sidelines when it comes to his family. That includes sweet giggling moments like these, but also the messy poop-up-the-back moments, or rocking-the-feverish-baby-all-night-long-while-she-vomits-on-your-shirt-moments, or the-toddler-doesn't-feel-like-behaving moments. Oh, and he does dishes too! I'm exceptionally fortunate to be married to such a gem.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

A Story of Grace

Once upon a time, we wanted to start a family, but we couldn't. We wanted to have children. We wanted babies. I never dreamed it would be so difficult.
2 and a half years is a long time to want something so deeply. 2 and a half years is a long time to be on a roller coaster of hope and disappointment. 2 and a half years is a long time to wait for a miracle. But a miracle finally came. This is our story of grace.
Infertility was something I never even thought of happening to me. When it struck, I was optimistic. I can embrace this challenge, I thought. I'm a get-things-done, figure-out-the-problem-and-fix-it type of gal. But it was one heck of an enemy and it wore me down to my knees. Literally. I spent the better part of that 2 and a half years on my knees. Sobbing, begging, praying.
It's somewhat embarrassing to remember and make an account of those emotions. Now that I have three children and the feelings aren't so raw anymore, it gives me twinges of shame to see how I conducted myself during that desperate time. Jay and I would lash out at each other (okay, it was mostly me doing the lashing) and then cry together. We were frustrated together, and sometimes at each other. We were, in a word, devastated. I could only picture the years of my life rolling out before me empty. No little feet pattering through the house. No Christmases filled with the delight and wonder of a child's belief. No one to teach about why a roly poly bug rolls up. No late night calls for a glass of water. No boo-boos to kiss. No soggy cheerios to fish out of the couch cushions. My marriage was (and is) a happy one. Jay is my best friend and soul mate. I love him dearly. Some would say that's enough. That at least I had that. But it actually made it worse. To love him so much and not be able to give him the desire of his heart. Of both our hearts. To not be able to create another human being just from the sheer force of our love for each other. Heartbreaking.
We sought help and medical treatment. Drugs, in the form of pills and injections (Can I just tell you? The injections in the backside were with a 1 and a half inch needle! Jay had to administer them to me, and it was no small feat for me to let him. I'd get the shakes and the sweats just watching him draw up the drug.) Tests. Procedures. Painful! Expensive. Unsuccessful. Hope is a very pesky thing though. It kept poking it's persistent little head up into the fog of our despair. So we would try again. And again. And again. We would take the drugs. Count the follicles on the ultrasound machine. Endure the blood draws. Prepare for the surgery. Anxiously await updates on the status of our embryos. Watch their transfer into my body as tiny points of light on a black and white screen. And we would pray.
On September 7, 2005, I got a phone call at my desk in the office where I work. The nurse at the fertility clinic was calling back with the results of my blood test. 2 and a half years later, I was pregnant.
Oh, what a day! The first thing I did was call Jay at work. I can't even publish our conversation, so private a celebration it was. For just a moment, we needed to close in on this wonderful news together, in secret. To curl our minds around it and bask in the elation and wonder of what it truly meant. What did it all mean? So long we had dreamed of this that we instantly knew what it meant: little pattering feet, delighted Christmases, boo-boos to be kissed and Cheerios to be fished. I was pregnant! One of those tiny points of light on the black and white screen was to be ours in hand in 9 months time. A new life, that was two equal parts of us. The best parts of us, made whole by this amazing new creature who had decided to stay.
A few days later I started having pain. Shooting pains on one side. We went back to the clinic for another ultrasound. I'll never forget hearing the phrase "the pregnancy is not developing normally". We were told to expect a miscarriage. We were told to go directly to the lab to get more blood drawn in order to determine the strength of the medicine I would take to dissolve the pregnancy, should a miscarriage not ensue on it's own. I can remember the time spent in the waiting room of that lab. I can see it as if I were someone else uninvolved in our drama looking over at us. Jay sat slumped with my head on his chest. My hair had fallen over my face. Jay's arm was curled over my head, holding it tight as I wept uncontrollably, loudly. Looking back now, I realize I was making a great scene, and it wasn't long before we were moved to another room so I wouldn't upset the other people in the waiting room. But at the time I hadn't the sense to even know or care. All I knew was that a dream had been given, and then surreptitiously snatched away.
We waited for it, but the miscarriage never came. We believed it was just yet another insult to an already horrific nightmare that the miscarriage would have to be artificially induced. We went to our next scheduled doctor's appointment. The ultrasound showed a heartbeat. A fluttering, flickering point of light in a completely normally developing pregnancy. Words cannot describe the joy or the disbelieving laughter that erupted from our mouths at that moment. What pass had we been given? What intervention had God performed? What trial had He designed for us to bear and why? None of the answers were important. The months that followed were full of everything one would expect from those who were expecting: conversations about names, nursery paint colors, and labor plans. We settled in to the grace God had granted us and that the little point of light would become our "Bug". That little point of light came into the world so brightly. 2 and a half years later, she is our world, our joy, our story of grace.