Wednesday, October 27, 2010

pumpkin time!

When I asked Annike if she wanted to visit the place where they grow pumpkins so we could buy one and take it home to put a face on it, she looked at me like I was crazy. Who can blame her?

Why do we carve pumpkins, anyway? Upon research, it seems we have graduated to pumpkins, from the former tradition of carving turnips and potatoes. This is fortunate for those of us who are challenged by our fine motor skills. I am also not sure how they ever fit a candle into a turnip... In any case, from everything I have read it seems there is no single, clear origin to Halloween. Here in America, like most things American, we merged all different types of celebrations... from pagan to religious, Catholic to Protestant, Irish to Roman, from New Year (yes, it was formerly the Celtic New Year celebration) to Harvest, from warding off ghosts to welcoming saints. In the end, the traditional celebration we are left with is somewhat confusing to me - tell me again, what are we actually celebrating?

Apparently, in the late 1800s there was a move in America to change Halloween into a holiday centered more around the community and neighborly get-togethers, than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft ( Someone forgot to tell downtown Santa Cruz.
Trick-or-treating was revived in the 30s or 40s as an inexpensive way for the entire community to celebrate. While I do not delude myself into thinking that everyone treats Halloween as a community bonding experience, our family truly does join in simply for the joy of togetherness. It is one more opportunity to bond as a family over pumpkin carvings, and to create memories with friends while laughing at ourselves in costume. And what better way is there to meet your neighbors than knocking on their door in a funny outfit? Of course, they may not ever recognize you without that silly hat... but I like the idea that in some cases we can celebrate togetherness itself.

If you are interested in my more serious opinion of Halloween, you can see Halloween from last year.

In the spirit of togetherness, we set out to pick our pumpkin in between rain showers. The mud is all part of the fun! The camera can't quite capture the squeals of delight released as Annike stomped around, saying over and over, "So many pumpkins!"

I'll take this one... it's just my size.

Time to say good-bye to the pumpkin patch and take mini-"Cimbrella" (as Annike has dubbed her) away in her pumpkin-turned coach.

Back home to carve them up. Even Papa got into it and designed a very special kitty pumpkin for Annike.

She likes it!

Coming up next: Annike's costume! That is, if I can get her to wear it...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

strawberry finale

Fall has officially arrived here on the farm: the apples are ripe, the orchard is changing colors, and strawberry season is finally over. I love the changing of the seasons, and for autumn in particular, the thin air, the constant fire in the woodstove, and the onset of the rain are welcome indications of the current season. There are some unfortunate things about fall too, but I know that come spring and summer the weather will warm again and the cycle of life will continue. I suppose I should learn to accept my season in life just as readily...

In order to take advantage of the last few pies and jars of jelly we could possibly make this year, (for the beginning of the strawberry season, see strawberries) we invited a few friends and family out to fill their buckets with the last of the edible strawberries. Our little "Cimbrella" went running through the fields in her "princess dress" for the grand finale picking.

"Popga" and "Sanma" came to help.

These are just a few of the little ones who made it out. I am not sure if their goal was to get muddy, or pick strawberries, because after Analise had been picking for a half hour she looked into her bucket and said, "Where did all of my strawberries go?" None of the adults knew either.

This little guy is caught stuffing his face with the berry, the stem, and the mud.

Time to head in and warm up by the fire...

Farewell, strawberries, we have enjoyed you! As one thing ends, a new thing begins. Our God created life that cycles, such that one thing we are always assured of is change. We only have to choose to see the beauty in the seasons of life.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven... He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:1&11

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

the grocery store

The grocery store was so crowded this morning. My cart was inevitably in someones way, and I really was trying to make a quick dash in and out. I was digging through the meat section next to another man, who was also digging. I was, of course, in his way. Starting to complain to him, and justify my presence so that I didn't feel so bad about blocking his access to the meats, I grouched, "The store is so crowded today! I was told that Tuesday mornings were the best days for shopping. So much for that!" He said, "Today is Wednesday."


It is so easy to find something to complain about. And so easy to start a conversation with a negative thought, because frankly, when I am being negative I have a lot in common with the rest of the world. Shopping with a two-year-old often makes me feel rushed. And I must travel around the store with some kind of harried, desperate look on my face because more than once, someone has yielded to me saying "You look like you are in a hurry..."

When I was teaching full time, my grocery shopping was limited to rush hour or Saturdays. Now I am limited only by a nap schedule. My "hurry" in the store is just a result of being a somewhat disorganized mom, timing our shopping trip when Annike should be eating lunch. Instead of complaining because I think I should be the only one shopping in the grocery store before noon, I want to cultivate a grateful heart. Time to to take a step back and say "Let me wait patiently over here while you search through the meats!"

Today, I want to share just a few of the simple things I am thankful for:
1. I have an hour or more of quiet before my daughter wakes up from her nap!
2. An easy dinner is planned for tonight!
3. My daughter is sleeping through the night!
4. It is fireplace and pumpkin season!
5. The apples in our yard taste delicious!

My family is wonderful, we have a set of fantastic friends, God in my life makes all things possible. What more do I have to complain about?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

pecking order

It seems that chicken farmers have been observing hens for centuries, coming up with all sorts of quotable quotes that help humans relate to chickens. Quotes like: "Too many hens in the henhouse" and "Don't count your chickens before they hatch." Fascinated by the primitive, yet sophisticated behaviour of our chickens, we too are discovering a little bit about human nature mirrored in our feathery friends.

We now have six chickens, all of them "rescued" from the animal shelter. The first set (Penny, Patty, and Henrietta) arrived as docile and friendly as hoped for, and Annike quickly became one of the gals. Aside from the time Chicken Patty stole the graham cracker out of her hand, they seem to be getting along just fine.

Enter the second set of chickens... A hen fight broke out within minutes of introducing Dumpling, Cacciatore, and Benedict to the hen house. It was Junior High revisited. Like two cliques of middle schoolers, these ladies pecked and flew at each other. I had to drag Annike out of the coop before she got in the way of flying beaks. They have now reached some sort of agreement not to kill each other, but competition in the house unmasked their aggressive sides, and these girls are downright mean to each other.

It is strange to witness the product of primitive selfishness in our chickens. The established pecking order works so that the first set of chickens get to eat while the others cower in the corner. Our formerly gentle chickens now go on a regular tirade to prove their high rank in the nesting house. The most interesting part to me is that the meanest chicken is now Henrietta. She was once at the bottom of the original pecking order. The one who was picked on most is now doing most of the picking.

Human nature at its ugliest, looks a lot like this. Those who have taken the brunt of someone else's pecking order look for opportunities to pick on others. Any school bully has a history of being bullied. And without God in our lives, we too are stuck treating people the way we have always been treated. The truth is that God created us to be different than the animals, who live only for themselves. He designed us to love and care for others in our lives, and to live in the freedom of forgiveness for those who have treated us poorly in the past. Jesus came to earth especially for those at the bottom of the pecking order. He came to offer them a chance to put off the old way, and choose another way.

"You were taught... to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I have heard it said that true art is something you never get tired of looking at. I have every reason to believe that will be the case with my birthday gift:

The artist, Pat Huber, is a dear friend of our family from my growing up years. She saw a photo of Annike playing on the beach, and asked if she could paint it. What a gift it turned out to be! My favorite part is the movement in the painting and the way the light catches on Annike's hair blowing in the wind. Even though I can't see her face, there is no mistaking the child pictured. Thank you, Christian and Mom, for finding this jewel for me! Thank you, Pat, for seeing the artistic beauty in my daughter!

Monday, October 4, 2010

empty boxes

I am a compulsive list-maker. I have lists for everything... a list of groceries, a list of chores that need doing, a list of recipes I might want to try one day, a list of people I would like to write notes to, or email, or call. I have a list of tasks that need doing for our home business, and items I need to buy the next time we go to Costco, and even a list of future projects I want to do when that elusively free day comes along where I have nothing left to do from any of my other lists.

Each item gets an empty box next to it, which I find great satisfaction in coloring in when I finish a task. (Confession: sometimes I even secretly write things down that have already been finished, just so I can color in the box.) There is a rich feeling of accomplishment that comes over me when I look at my list of completed tasks.

The trouble is that for most of my life I have judged my own worth by my accomplishments. It is a common problem. We find it so hard to separate who we are from what we do. Ask any man who has lost his job, any teenager who did not make it on the basketball team, and any mom who has left a career to raise her children.

The Bible says that our worth is found in Christ Jesus. We are not worthy because of the number of productive things we do in a day, or the number of years we went to school, or the number of titles we have earned at work. What makes us worthy is our heart to please God. (Colossians 1:10)

With that in mind, today I am challenged to fore go the list in order to please God by tackling the divine task He has entrusted to me... raising my daughter. This task includes things that are difficult to itemize and check off, like reading stories, having a tea party, pausing to make play dough animals, singing songs, walking out to pick apples and letting her actually do the walking although it will take 20 minutes longer than carrying her. It means that instead of coloring in all 10 boxes next to my daily chores, my list might end up full of empty boxes. Perhaps the presence of empty boxes means I have accomplished so much more of what God wants me to be doing today? My greatest accomplishment today was to nurture the precious child God has entrusted to my care.

"And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father..." Colossians 1:10-12

Sidenote: While Annike is not yet able to physically write out a list, I think that she has inherited my desire to stay organized...

... I had better start training her now that our worth is also not found in how well we can place items in a neat line!