Friday, November 28, 2014

last post

Hi friends!  I want to spread the word one final time that I have changed the blog web address to:


Please come visit me over there and update all of your settings, links, follow buttons, etc. There are two days left to enter a give-away posted on the new site. Thanks for being a part of this journey!

and Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

visit the new web address!

After years at this web address, something has been prompting me to move to a new site. There are many small reasons, but the big one is that for privacy reasons I felt it was important to take our last name out of the web address.

Please visit my new site at:

Check it out soon because I am hosting my very first give-away of this item:

You need to visit the new site to enter the give-away, where you can also read about why I am giving this item away. While you are at it, please update any saved settings you have like bookmarks or links. Also be sure to update your "Follow" status of the new blog or follow via email using the feeds on the sidebar. It is also on bloglovin.

Sincere thanks for being a part of this fun journey with me!

Love, 
Ashley and her little zoo animals (who never got their Halloween picture posted!)


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

hobbies

As a child I remember wondering what was so special about the Family Circus cartoon. Now I am all grown up and I get it. They are not so much funny as they are true, thus laughable.


This one tickled me a familiar place where I sighed when I read it and thought: Yes. That is how I feel. 

Once, I had hobbies. I just can't remember what they are at the moment. Laundry and dishes hardly count. It took me all summer long to hang some picture frames in my hallway. No exaggeration. Some weeks I literally hammered in one single nail.

Hobbies are the activities I would choose to do during all of my free time, as an outlet for creativity. I dream of having an afternoon alone when I will, undoubtedly, complete the mile long list of crafty fun and sewing ideas and house projects that float around in my brain while sorting toys and sweeping.

The truth is that I spend too much of my thought life thinking about the activities I am not doing, or am not able to do. My days are spent doing a number of things. They are full of the activities that have been entrusted to me by God. The vast majority of them actually do utilize my creativity. Telling bedtime stories. Reading books. Coming up with breakfast and dinner and the many meals in between. Reorganizing our home over and over again. Tickling and telling jokes. Convincing little people it will be fun if we get out the vacuum cleaner. Incorporating everyone's ideas. Teaching children valuable life lessons over broken toys.

These are not the activities I envision bringing my soul satisfaction. But they are the activities entrusted to me by God, first and foremost above my desire to hang pictures on the wall, or re-paint the bathroom, or add another post to this blog. Because they are from God, they can satisfy me as hobbies of a different nature never will.

It is good for me to remember that my future may hold the luxury of time to pursue hobbies, but even if it doesn't, I am glad I have a family to take care of. A life without them might be full of hobbies but empty of all the other things that bring me joy.

Praise the Lord, O my soul,... who satisfies your desires with good things 
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 
Psalm 103:5

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

let me tell you about apples

About a year ago we purchased the apple orchard next door. It was in rough shape, weeds growing where trees once were, old and tall varieties that pickers don't want to climb for the harvest. We were one of few obvious buyers as the dilapidated property bordered ours.


These ancient trees were gnarled and beautiful and they drew us in. An apple legacy to leave to our children one day. I have learned a lot about apples this year.


We have just completed our first harvest. Our trees laden with fruit. Sweet, crisp, juicy, delicious.

Growing them has ruined me for store-bought apples. There is something unnatural about all of the perfection in the grocery store, waxed shiny outside, unremarkable inside. Pick an apple from our trees and you will most likely pick a worm too. Or a bird peck or a blemish or an apple deemed imperfect. They are dull in luster without the added wax. But I have heard that the birds and worms know how to find the sweetest ones.


As a culture, we have said that fruit must be perfect looking for it to be purchased. Is it possible that in our focus on perfection we have missed out on something better?

Apples aren't the only victims of our visual culture. It happens with people too. I think the people with bumps and bruises on the outside are often sweeter on the inside. It is our wormholes that distinguish us. I could say that you can't judge a book by its cover, but that is actually not my point. You see, I do think the cover matters. It is just what we are looking for in the cover that needs to be adjusted. Perhaps if the value was placed on the actual blemish then people would expose their wounds. After all, it is these life experiences that can grow a person to be gentle, humble, compassionate, and ultimately sweeter with time.


My buying habits have changed of late. I like a piece of fruit that has character, a distinguishing mark, a rough spot, a chip in its covering that lets the delicious odor seep through. This is how I know the fruit has seen the sunlight and felt the rain and withstood the bugs and how I know it hasn't been genetically manufactured in a warehouse. I don't mind a bruise here and there if it means a good story and a certain readiness.


Choosing fruit or choosing friends, what exactly do we value?



A few odd facts:

... The worms in an apple go straight for the core. If you cut out the hole, and don't eat the core, the rest of the apple is perfect!  And often more delicious than the apples without worms.

... An apple a day keeps the constipation at bay, if you really wanted to know.  It is actually my personal theory that this is the origin of the belief that apples kept the doctor away. In the absence of modern medicine, the ancients were obsessed with staying regular as a indication of overall health.

... Apples make great natural toothbrushes. Feeling scummy? Skip the Wrigley's and eat an apple. 

... There are a lot more varieties than just "Red" and "Green". On our property we have Pippin, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Honey Crisp, Fuji, Yellow Delicious, and Gala apples and have recently planted some experimental varieties with pink flesh like Pink Ladies.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

birthday week: karsten

My baby is ONE!

He has begun the final process of exiting babyhood, entering into boyhood. While I am looking forward to increased sleep at nights and having both arms free to carry things other than my children, I am sad to see the chubby cozy baby stage passing by with such permanence. These days will soon be but a memory. And just like those old people keep telling me in the grocery store, they have gone by so fast. Sigh.


Alas, on to birthday wishes and the last of the September craziness...

Dearest Baby Karsten,

No one loves me like my babies do. Which may be one of the reasons I am so sad to see you grow. You have already stopped looking at me with hungry eyes, and find it more fun to chase your sisters than snuggle me on the couch.

Your personality is emerging, though yet to be developed. You are growing into an active little boy, and quite the "explorer". You won't rest until you investigate all things new in your surroundings. While this makes it difficult for me to have a conversation with anyone, or complete any task outside of shadowing you, I wouldn't have it any other way. All of this curiosity is part of using the brain and the intelligence God gave you - and I sure hope that brain keeps you from sticking your fingers in an outlet.

Along with learning to crawl, you began to teach us about materialism. You quickly established yourself as the reason that our laptop computer is acting strangely and the reason our DVD player is broken and the reason my Bible is missing some pages in the front. You are the reason my trash cans are currently being kept on top of the furniture and the reason our living room is a giant playpen surrounded by baby gates. Oddly, this is not the way I pictured motherhood, but it is turning out to be just fine, because none of these material things matter.

In typical male fashion, you love all things food. This is possibly one reason you have loved me so very much, as I have been the bearer of all meals this entire year. When in doubt, eating seems to solve all of your problems. We hope to make you more selective this coming year, keeping the acorns and cat poop out of your mouth while encouraging such delicacies as broccoli and brussel sprouts.

As the fifth member of our family, you have brought a balance to our dynamics. Now there is nothing that can be divided equally, so we have stopped trying. This offers a certain health to our family unit as we have quit being "fair" and embrace the sharing and servitude that God intended for us all along. Thank you for being one more piece in that puzzle.

We pray every day that you will grow into a man who follows after God with your whole heart. A man who is a humble leader, and wise decision maker. In a world that is experiencing a crisis of men who fail to behave as men, there is no greater gift I could ask for you.

With all my love on your first birthday,
Momma



Your cake might not have been as cute as the girls' this year, but it was the best tasting... which you would have known if you had eaten the cake instead of the candle.


All you wanted for your birthday was a ride on something noisy.

Nothing could have been better than a ride on Papa's tractor and a ride on an excavator!


Monday, September 22, 2014

birthday week: sommer

One of the things that makes turning three special is that Sommer can finally hold up all three fingers to show us how old she is. The problem is that she keeps telling us she is five, so we still have something to work on.


Dearest Sommy-som, Sommy-num, Sommer sunshine, Som-Som,

I really do want to put you in a bottle and freeze you in time. Your squishy squeezy babyish body can not hold all the personality in and it is always exploding all over the place, much to everyone's delight. You are charming and funny and kind and imaginative and silly and snuggly and creative and smart and very very talkative, when you are not low on blood sugar of course.

I love your voice right now. Your vocabulary is impressive despite the lack of Ss and Rs and Ls and you manage to say quite a bit without these extraneous letters. You pretend to read everything, and you surely have every word in your favorite books memorized. You are an excellent story teller and I am never quite sure if it is the story that has fascinated me or the listening to you and the inflection of your voice.

I love your spunk. I never worry that another child will bully you because you understand well the art of defending yourself. We will tame this over time to become more gentle and fully appropriate, but you clearly understand your personal boundaries. You say what you think, so we never have to wonder. This means we get to hear lots of spontaneous "I love you"s. This also means we never doubt when or why you are upset.

I love hearing you sing. You sing everything and everywhere. Some of your favorites are "Raindrops on Roses" and "Jesus Loves Me". You do a pretty good job with "Part of That World" from The Little Mermaid too. You have a song for all occasions. You sing while you play pretend and your animals often sing to each other. You even tell made up "story-songs". You carry a beautiful tune. But most importantly, there is a song in your heart. May it always remain.

At three years old you already have a clear sense of conscience, forgiveness, and God's ever-present love. You are even quick to remind me when I am hurting: "But, Momma, God loves you."  What could possibly comfort me more?

I love you deeply. May three years old be a wondrous, magical year full of good things and growth in all the right ways.

Love, Momma



Friday, September 19, 2014

birthday week: annike

That's right, it's birthday week. My three children are 5 years apart, and somehow all three birthdays are within 9 days of each other. People always want to know how that happened. Well, go ask your mother how it happened. All I know is that it makes for an exceptionally busy September. We bake and decorate a lot of cakes, sing a lot of "Happy Birthday"s, and celebrate a lot of little people. By the end of September, it seems like we have had way more than three birthdays.

Even though it is busy, I don't want to miss the opportunity to celebrate each child individually. Each child get his or her own cake. And each child get her or his own blog post. Without further ado, happy birthday to the sweet girl who made me a Momma only six years ago.


Dearest Annike,

You are a sweet, tender-hearted child with a wonderful sense of integrity. You know how to be both silly and serious, and you find great joy in the little things that life brings. I am sad that you are growing because you seem just perfect the way you are. There are so many things I love about you at this moment in time, I want to freeze them in my memory. The good news is that each year of life with you seem to be more fun than the last.

I love that your favorite color is blue instead of pink. That you would rather watch a nature show than a cartoon. That you accessorize with animal ears and tails and think that clothing made in cheetah print is the best. That you would rather play outside than inside and aren't afraid to get dirty. That you love animals, but aren't sad when they die. That you choose to eat an apple over pizza. I love that you want to hear stories about me and Papa when we were little, especially if there are animals in the story.

I love that you get excited about aquariums and museums and going to the library and visiting your grandparents. I love that you know the names of more fish than I do, and some of your favorite books are fish and bird reference books. I love your adorable drawings of animals. I also love that you are kind to me when I attempt to draw animals and you can't recognize them.

I love that you know how to share the joy of others and rarely feel in competition with friends. That you freely offer encouragement to your little sister when she tries something new or hard. That you worry about me being lonely, which seems like something that could never actually happen in the next decade of my life.

I love that I know you are always telling me the truth, because you don't feel right if you aren't telling the truth, unless you have your "stinker face" on and then I know you are trying to trick me. I love that Jesus is in your heart and you find His ways both mysterious and exciting.

Being six will be full of joy because you are full of life and adventure. I love you so much!

Love, Momma



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

my help

School started up last week for Annike. First grade begins the wild world of full day school. Off she goes.


On that first day while she was gone and my younger two were napping, I sat on the couch with my Bible, by myself.  It felt like a small miracle to be alone. I teared up with emotion, and all of the mixed sentiments of the day... worry, exhaustion, gratitude, relief, sadness at witnessing the arrival of yet another year.

That moment sitting on the couch was a healing moment. There was peace in my home, and I was allowed some space in a frantic world to process all of my emotional extremes. The moment ended shortly thereafter as the baby awoke early from his nap and refused to go back down. But in those minutes spent reflecting on our summer, I felt a huge sense of relief that we were exiting it and all the chaos that accompanied it. Summer is a wonderful time of fun and freedom, but we are all ready to have the reigns pulled back restoring some sense of order and routine in our lives, if for no other reason then our ability to once again enjoy occasionally breaking the routine.

At times, parenting three children is one of the most stressful things I have ever done. I can only imagine what it is like to have four, or six, or more. It brings multi-tasking to a whole new level, like trying to have a different conversation with five people at once giving them each your undivided attention. Take any serene moment, and there is an equally disastrous moment unpredictably lurking behind it. Like yesterday afternoon when we were all playing nicely in the backyard, engaged in our respective happy tasks, and all at once one child has thrown sand into the eyes of another child. The child with sand in her eyes is screaming in pain while the other child is rebelling with the knowledge she is waiting to be disciplined. Meanwhile the baby has discovered a nest of ants and is quite literally covered in them. The disciplined child is sent inside where she has an accident in the bathroom. As the meltdowns occur, everyone also appears to be both tired and hungry. Only 60 seconds have passed since the world was a place of calm. Now all is calamity.

It is difficult to know what to tackle first. I find myself just wanting a little help. Why is no one helping me? Why are there suddenly so many tasks to complete and not possibly enough minutes in the day to complete them while caring for these young people? and caring for my husband? and sometimes caring for myself? It is the feeling of being overwhelmed by all of the things that need to be done and the truth that I am completely incapable of doing them all at once, let alone doing them at all.

In that frantic moment I do not remember that God is my help. No, I am too busy being angry that my daughter has peed on the floor while she was having a tantrum, and being frustrated that my other daughter doesn't know how to communicate with me when she is in pain, and being worried that my baby is getting bitten by ants or choking on a pebble because I left him outside. In that frantic moment I succumb to the lies that I cannot do it. I have forgotten the truth that God is my ever-present help. He hasn't left me, or you, alone in the overwhelming present. He has not fallen asleep while we are left to tend to the mess.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills--
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, 
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.
Psalm 121

In that healing moment on the couch, relief flooded me as I remembered that I do have help. There will be plenty more overwhelming moments in my future. But they will be peppered by moments of peace, in which I have space to remember, and hopefully internalize, the truth.
.........................................................

It is ridiculous, of course, to entertain the notion that I don't have any help. Karsten himself has entered the very helpful stage of 11 months old. Below are some photos to prove just how helpful he truly is...

Here he is helping me load the dishwasher...

and helping me sort laundry...

and helping me reorganize the children's bookshelf...

and helping me clean the shower...

and helping me change the toilet paper roll, a favorite task of his...


and helping me dig in the garden, sampling plants as he goes to be sure that they are edible...

And just in case you have forgotten what it is like to live with small children in the house, this video is a reminder. How does anyone ever do it without this kind of helpfulness?


Sunday, August 17, 2014

a roll in the mud

These are the final days of summer. Sigh.


This is good news and bad news. The good news being that I will get to go grocery shopping with only two children in my cart, which will be a piece of cake. There will be a lot more room for food too. The bad news is, well, that summer is almost over.


When we moved to this farm over four years ago, I had no idea it meant that we would become a real farm family, unafraid of things like mice and dirt and eating fruit with worms in it. My girls can rock playing in the mud, and my little boy is learning fast. 


I've never wanted to be particularly uptight about letting my kids get dirty. As it turns out, they are covered in dirt often as a regular part of going outside. It just seems like part of a healthy childhood to allow some filth, even if it ends up meaning more laundry for me. And as much as is in my control, I would like to give my children a healthy childhood.



Like moths to a flame are children to mud. At some point between childhood and now I lost my desire to roll around in the mud, and they will lose it too. Is it because I did it enough to purge the need from my system? Or because my imagination has dulled? Or because I became too darn practical and don't want to take time out for a second shower today? Probably all of the above.



We spend a fair amount of time holding back as adults. Too many reasons to be responsible. Too many things to feel self-conscious over. Too much fear of the future. These are hindrances children don't inherently have, and I am oh so glad to celebrate this freedom of theirs for a few more years. That's what summer days are all about.



Rolling in the mud is a good reminder to celebrate the season we are in now. To celebrate today without anxieties about what may or may not be next. To temporarily let go of the "what might happen"s and the "I don't feel like getting dirty"s in order to engage in what is happening at this very moment. It means having a sense of humor when someone squirts you with a hose, instead of my newest adult tendency to snap at the person who did it. In these final warm days of August, go ahead and take another run through that sprinkler or a good roll in the mud. We can't get these days back again.



Straight into the bathtub after this. Next project on the list is installing an outdoor shower. Every farmhouse needs one.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

safe

In an effort to make the most of the last few weeks of summer, this morning we went to a drop-in class at the children's gymnastics center. They always do a good job at making the experience both fun and educational. Today's theme was safety. During circle time there were introductions and each child was invited to answer the question: What are some things that help you stay safe?

There was a discussion about bicycle helmets and looking both ways before we cross the street. I always feel a secret glee when I get to listen in on my own children's comments, like a spy gathering information. What do they know and what will they say? Since they don't ride bikes yet and we live out in the country where there aren't many streets to cross, I was curious which connections they were making.

Sommer's turn came. What are some things that help you stay safe? She gave a fairly typical two-and-a-half year old's unrelated answer, "We have a trampoline at home!" Yes, she was more focused on the trampolines she saw around her than circle time. The teachers were skilled, however, at bringing it back around and they talked about trampoline safety.

Annike's turn came. What are some things that help you stay safe? She looked shy, then evangelized her class, "I pray to Jesus quietly in my heart."
Preach it, sister. Liberal Santa Cruz may not listen to me, but they will listen to you.

Responses like these are the reason I have named this blog "A Child's Eyes." I learn so much from the innocent perspective of my children. Over the years my contribution to a discussion on safety has been programmed to include something like: "Don't talk to strangers." But children only know what they know, without all of the programming.

This morning was one of those rare mornings when I was feeling brave enough to take three children on a summer outing by myself. The past few months with all the kids at home has tested and challenged me in this area as I have discovered the hard way that no matter where we go, I still can't predict the outcome of any outing where the ratio is 3:1. Hoping this will change shortly.

Gymnastics class went well, but like I said, I had an abnormal surge of bravery and decided to take the kiddos for treats at a local bakery. On the way out, because hot chocolate and a fruit parfait had clearly not sufficiently filled her tummy, Sommer ate "a green bean" from a mysterious plant by the doorway. I didn't see her do it of course because I was maneuvering the stroller through two swinging doors while corralling my children onto the sidewalk instead of the street, carrying three half-drunk cups of hot chocolate, attempting not to spill any on the baby or run over the toes of other guests.

When we got to the car Sommer told me, "My breath tastes spicy because I ate a green bean from that plant."
"You WHAT?!!?"
Approaching her I realized her "spicy" breath was actually the smell of vomit.


It left me acutely aware that while wearing seat belts and obeying traffic laws are all very safe and good choices, it is Jesus alone who keeps us safe when the child who should know better eats a poisonous plant. At the end of the day, it is He who holds our whole lives in His hands.

On the car ride home, Annike prayed quietly in her heart for Sommer's safety while I called Poison Control. It turns out that this plant causes gastrointestinal discomfort, hence the vomit, but in small doses most likely isn't toxic. We don't need to have her stomach pumped.

In the meantime we thank God for His grace to see us safely through another day.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4-5

Our family hands in cement.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

loving well

We have had a bit of a funky summer. Maybe I am just getting older, or maybe an extra dose of LIFE is happening all around. Either way, this summer has not been the light-hearted season I had planned. It has instead been colored by a kind of heaviness and melancholy that comes from witnessing the imperfection of humankind and the simple passing of time. There have been friends walking through difficult circumstances, loved ones growing older, children who need a new kind of parenting less about need-based provision and more about understanding choices that are right and wrong. There have been health issues and deep theological discussions, the answers to which may only be found in heaven itself. There have been confrontations with life and death and the space in between.

So when an ankle injury resurfaced from almost 20 years ago, knocking me off my feet, and my husband severely strained a muscle temporarily incapacitating him, it seemed almost comical. There is no one left to take care of us, both hobbling around like old people. (I admit I initially had little to no compassion for my husband's injury when it prevented him from taking care of me... then his pain-induced nausea turned him a sallow shade of pasty green and I decided it was the real thing.)

However debilitating these physical injuries are, they are nothing compared to some of the spiritual darkness we have witnessed over the past few months. I would choose our physical dilemmas any day over some of the other struggles in the lives of those we love. Contemplating all of it leaves me with a sifted down, simplified view of the complex life I am living. At the end of it all, whether my end comes fifty years from now or some time this week, I want to know one thing: I want to know that I have loved well.

Have I loved well in the harried moments of my day? Have I loved well in selfishly stolen quiet times? Have I loved well during the bedtime ritual when little eyes and ears want just one more story, just one more song, and just one more moment with me? Have I loved well on the telephone when conversations drew tears on the other end, through the chaos of needy little ones on my end? Have I loved well in the grocery store though I feel rushed to make it out before the meltdowns begin, when a gentle old soul with all the time in the world stops to admire my children? Have I loved well or allowed resentment to rob my joy because of a worldly understanding of justice? Have I loved well by noticing others, by remembering important details, by listening, by praying, by pausing, by encouraging, by serving, by sharing, by being present?

That is all that really matters. Loving well.

The realization has made this summer feel more inward and less outward. There has been more time with family and less time on the computer. This is as it should be. In the midst of the heaviness, here is a photo summary of some ways we are trying to love well this summer...

We spent some cherished time with my grandmother, visiting from Texas. What a blessing for my children to spend time with this Godly woman, building a relationship with their Great-Grandma!



My littlest love is requiring lots of attention these days, now crawling and standing wherever he gets a chance. He is one of the better reasons I haven't found much time to sit at the computer...

And two other little people I am trying to love well. Some days are easier than others. But the benefits include lots of trips to the pool and the beach.


Loving family and friends on the Fourth of July.


At some point this summer I let my girls watched Disney's The Little Mermaid for the first time. We made sure to fast-forward through some of the scary parts to protect young and active imaginations. The girls were enamored and we have been living in an underwater kingdom ever since. The day after their viewing Annike told me, "Sommer can be Ariel, and I will be Flounder her fish friend. Karsten can be Sebastian (the crab) and Papa can be Prince Erik.  Momma you... you can be the Evil Sea Witch!"

Gee thanks. Looks like I have quite a bit more work to do in the "loving well" department...
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