Stubborn Walk and Our Puppy

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My DSLR has been needing some maintenance.  I should send it into a professional to get properly cleaned.  I kept telling myself that I couldn’t be away from it for 6-12 weeks as they said it would be.  So it’s been sitting there, waiting for me to do the cleaning like I did once before.  It’s such delicate work, that I was waiting for a time when I could concentrate, which doesn’t really exist in this home.  It’s been sitting there for probably over a month, and finally I realized that I’m going to want it ready to go when this baby comes, and to just suck it up and fix it.

I forgot how much I love my camera compared to my phone camera.  I did my best, and it’s working much better, but I can tell there’s still a button that sticks a bit, and I might have to bite the bullet and get it tuned up.  But not now.  I need it for the baby.

After it was fixed, the sun was going down outside, and I couldn’t help myself but to take a walk.  I haven’t even wanted to walk out to the mailbox since last Wednesday, it hurts so much to walk.  This baby sits so low.  But I stubbornly walked a little around the yard with the dogs.  It was just so pretty.

I was sick of sitting with my feet up.  My mental health required it.  It’s one of the most gorgeous times of the year in our yard, and I just couldn’t stand looking through the porch window anymore.

The meat chicks got out to pasture today.  Our old dog, Lena, who is a black lab/German Shepherd, and about 7 years old has been playing outside with our new “little” pup, Nanny, who is a Great Pyrenees/Anatolian Shepherd mix.  She’s about 7 months old, and already a bit bigger than Lena.  She still has some growing to do.  She lives outside with the sheep, and we got her for the purpose of keeping predators out of our yard, which both of the breeds in her do well.  They guard livestock, and are extremely serious workers.  They are nocturnal for the most part, hunting down predators at night, and snuggling all day.  Our last livestock guardian was 2 years old when we got her, as she was being re-homed by a family who just couldn’t meet the needs that her breed required.

A puppy is so different.  Soooooo different.

Lena tries her hardest to keep on top of Nanny.  They wrestle and play-fight.  Lena comes in at night just wiped out, often too tired to climb up the stairs to her bed in our room.  She naps whenever she’s inside and away from Nanny.  She’s lost most of her fat since Nanny came to the farm. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen Lena so fit.   She no longer lays around depressed like she did for months after our last livestock guardian, Missy died.  She snores from exhaustion, and is cautious of her hips when she does stairs.  Nanny is an energetic pup.

She’s getting into trouble, like most puppies do.  We finally got her to stop jumping on people.  She knows how to sit, and she knows how to come, at least as well as livestock guardians ever learn how to “come.”  (They consider it more of a suggestion.)  She’s killed 2 chickens.  I’ve heard from other breed-owners that it can take up to 2 years to get them to understand not to chase chickens.  She killed 2 kittens, but we believe that was an accident.  The 2 mama cats kept letting their kittens wander in the barn, and it stressed Nanny out.  She kept picking them up in the back of the neck, and bringing them back to each perspective nest.  She never felt it was ok for them to be away from their nest.  We think that she was too clumsy with 2 of them.

Then the other day, I was pulling out of the driveway and I saw Nanny picking up an animal from the rose garden, and heading back to the barn with it.  I stopped and called her over, and sure enough, there was a black kitten that she was holding from the back of the neck, ever so gently with her teeth.  It was so cute I nearly pulled my phone out, but the kitten was so freaked out that I just reached to rescue him from Nanny’s mouth.  Other than being a bit wit from her slobber, the kitten was fine.  I walked him back down to the barn, and lay him with his mama, which seemed to satisfy Nanny.

That’s not what’s going on with the chickens, though.  She eats those.  Knut ran out to chase her away from eating a chicken last night, and it turns out she was just eating a squirrel.  I have no idea how she caught a squirrel.  She’s ridiculously fast.

She’s a snuggle-bug with humans, and the walk was much more work than I meant it to be because I kept telling her to stop pushing and leaning against me for some snuggles when I was trying to take a picture.  Finally, Lena rescued me and enticed Nanny to a wrestling match, and then they went running all over the yard.

The kids are learning that they actually need to pick up their toys outside now too.

Or they’re destroyed. It’s not a bad lesson to learn.

Nanny has a good heart.  I can already tell she’s smart and eager to learn.  I can tell she has some great instincts.  But the fact that she’s an immature puppy is written all over her too.  Fortunately, they grow out of that.

Unloading

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I’m sorry I haven’t blogged much lately, friends.  I have worried that if I start, I’ll just unload everything.  Then I realized this afternoon, that you guys are my friends.  I can unload.  You can take it.  I can come out of my end-of-pregnancy hermit state for a moment.

Friends, this baby is sitting so low.  So uncomfortably low.  It hurts to walk, stand, and for some reason it hurts whenever I move my left leg.  There’s a nerve pinched or something.  My muscles are stretched to the maximum.  Most of my maternity clothes don’t fit anymore.

Oh, but God has given me so much grace.  I can’t skip saying that.  He’s helped me not fall to pieces about 128,431 times in the last few days.  I have no idea how I’m still here, other than his mercies.

David was at Bible camp last week.  He had a blast, and has been great since he’s come home, minus the last day or so.  Silje and Elias have their turn at Bible camp this week, though Elias is already home, and Silje doesn’t come home until Friday, because she’s in the older group.  She turns 12 this week, and I won’t be there for it.  I’m honestly really sad about that, but it’s what she wanted to do for her birthday…be at camp, and so I’m dealing with it.

David was amazingly wonderful on Monday, as he made breakfast for the little girls and me, served on china plates.  He even made some desserts in the afternoon, and supper that evening.  He was amazing.  He does so good when he is working or serving.  But he did too much, and it has showed, as he’s been struggling in days that followed.

Then he had so much fun hanging out with his grandpa on Tuesday morning as I brought the little girls to a local preschool VBS that we sometimes do.  I got to sit in a coffee shop and eat chocolate cake with some ladies from church during that time.  That was a gift.  But like always, after he works really hard one day, doing above and beyond, he has days that follow where he crashes.  It’s just not sustainable.

So then we got home at lunchtime on Tuesday, and everything started falling apart.  I was physically done for the day, just getting in and out of the van, and walking through parking lots.  My pain level was the highest I like it to be.  So I was done.  And David was a grump.  He had so much fun that morning that he wanted the rest of the day to be just as fun, and started talking back and being rude when I asked him to do the littlest things.  Elias came home from camp and was exhausted.  I asked David to do his regular afternoon chore of the lunches dishes, and he fell to the ground and cried.  And I just let him.  Because I can’t manage everyone’s emotions, and at some point, they have to manage their own.  Fine.  Don’t do the dishes.  Be sad.  I’m going to sit down and put my feet up.  If you want to talk, I’ll be right over there.  I told him that I will love him no matter if he does the dishes or not, but I couldn’t protect him from the consequences of not doing his work.

That evening we went to Tae Kwon Do.  The kids were much better after that diversion, and refocused, which is the awesome thing about that class.  We actually had a really fun discussion on the way home from town in the van.  I could tell they were doing better.

We got home at 6:30.  Knut texted me that he would be in the field until dark…which around here this time of year is about 10pm or so.  We had no clean dishes to eat on, because David didn’t do them.  There wasn’t even counter space for me to make supper.  So David saw the problem, and started doing the dishes, apologizing profusely that he is making supper late because of his bad choice.

7:30 (because David was mad at himself, and when he’s mad at himself he moves at 1/10th a normal person’s speed) we had some clean dishes, I had some counter space, and I started making supper.  It was hard because I was hurting, Elias finally wanted to talk about camp, David wanted to talk about his feelings about his choices, and the little girls wanted to hang on my legs that hurt.  So I kept trying to get them away, but they wouldn’t stay away and did the revolving door bit, where as soon as I sent one kid out of the kitchen, another one came in.  So what should have taken 20 minutes to make took me about 40.  If I had yelled, and put the fear of God in all of them, I might have gotten it on the table in 20 minutes.  But I knew if I lost it, it was all over.  The night would end in tears and I would hurt even more from my muscles tensing up, my heart pounding, and my throat raw.  God gave me an extra heaping dose of grace and we just handed it out to everyone and kept putting one foot in front of the other.  We lit some candles for the table.  We put on some soothing music to calm the hyper little girls who should have been in bed.

Then I ask the boys to set the table for me.  David brought out our big Britta water filter container from the fridge, and filled everyone’s glasses.  But he forgot to put it away.  Right when we were sitting down, Elias picked up the very full square pitcher with about I don’t know, 2 or 3 gallons of water in it to move it back to the fridge so he could get to his plate.  It was too heavy for him, and he dropped it.  The plastic cracked open and water went gushing all over the kitchen floor, and all the kids start screaming as if it’s lava destroying our house or something.

I stayed cool.  I grabbed a bunch of towels.  We got it all sopped up.  We sat and ate.  Elias felt terrible, and I kept telling him it was an accident.  David was crying that he was the one who was supposed to put it back, and I just keep repeating it was just an accident.  I’m not mad.  Let’s just eat.  They’re all trying to help.  Let’s just eat.  It’s all over with.  Let’s just drop it.

So around 9pm, we start eating supper.  (The little girls normally go to bed around 8.)  By 9:30 the little girls are in bed, and at 10pm, the boys are done feeding the animals, and I start working on trying to fix the kids’ school computer that Knut accidentally messed up when we were trying to add all of his files to it, since his computer recently died.  I’m no computer genius, but I fixed it.  That was the high of the day.

I woke up this morning to a charlie horse racing up my right leg.  I always get them bad in pregnancy, and someone told me that magnesium helps.  So I’ve either taken an epsom salt bath, or rubbed magnesium lotion on my legs, and it’s really helped.  Last night I couldn’t reach my legs to rub any lotion, so I took a bath just to soak my screaming joints, but I was so tired I forgot to put the epsom salts in.  I just miss one night, and I woke up in horrible pain.  I started kicking to make it stop and Knut woke from a dead sleep saying “what’d I do?  What’s wrong?”  He groggily massaged the muscle spasm for me as I was whimpering.  Then we tried to go back to sleep.

I dropped the little girls off at VBS this morning again.  They were so excited, though very tired.  A bunch of moms were going to meet at a park.  I told the boys there was a softball field and a playground there.  They packed up their softball gear “just in case” they could play.  We got there.  I said hi to my friends, and David noticed that there was a little league game going on at the diamond, so he couldn’t play there, and was left with the big open field or the huge playground.

He didn’t want to play catch with his brother in the field.  He didn’t want to play on the playground.  His life was apparently over.  So we stayed for about 45 minutes, and David interrupted no less than 10 times, inappropriately, when I was mid sentence, and with much rudeness.  His life was over, and he wanted me to know this apparently every 2-3 minutes.  I corrected him.  I gave out consequences.  I gave him ideas.  I kept my own attitude in check.  But after 45 minutes, I was done with that, and I loaded the boys up and we went to the store to buy a new water filter.

We had lots of extra time, so I let the boys look in the toy aisle.  David kept asking me to give him a job so he could earn some money and buy some more toys.  I told him he has to do a good job with the chores he already has, consistently, before he can get to the next level of getting a paid job.  (Every time we pay him for a job, he gets half done and quits.  It has messed up a lot, and it’s something we’re working on.)

We got what we came to get, went to check out, and David asked if I would buy him a little dollar toy.  I told him that I wanted to.  I told him that I had planned to.  I told him that I had big plans for that morning, to have fun with them, and I wanted to treat them.  But I don’t reward bad behavior.  Ever.  I reward good behavior.  It is not my job to make his life fun and wonderful at all times.  My job is not the fun fairy.  My job is to train him.  And rewarding someone for not listening and constant interruption is bad training.

We had a long talk about how when we feel weak and stuck, we need to pray to God for strength.  I told him he is in the season of training, and God isn’t there to make our life easy, and perfect.  He’s there handing us power and strength.  We talked again about the literary heroes he loves so much, and how heroes are made by overcoming, not by having things handed to them on a silver spoon.  We talked about how jobs are for people who can go into a broken situation and fix it, a messy situation and clean it.  Paying jobs aren’t for people who demand that everything is perfect before they lift a finger.  I don’t like it when my kids demand a paying job.  You earn a paying job.  You earn it with your hard work, reputation, and willingness to be trained.

Then we picked up the little girls.  They had so much fun.  But Ingrid was so tired.  I got them in the van, and overtired Ingrid screamed the whole way home from town, which set off David’s SPD, and he was holding his ears and sitting on the fetal position by the time we got home.

He was trying.  I was trying.  We were all trying.  We managed to get some lunch, and get everyone to their sanctuary spaces.

And now it’s quiet time.  My feet are up, and I’m going to do some seated work like reading, homeschool prep for next year, some behind the scenes blog work, and probably goofing off on Facebook.  That’s what the rest of my day looks like.  Knut is taking David to the library tonight where I signed them up for a free kids’ class on how to use the 3D printer they now have available for check out.  They are both looking forward to that.  So I should have some plan of what to do with the 3 little kids.  We’ll probably read books on the couch all evening.  I’ll make some tea for that.

But now it is quiet.  Ingrid is asleep on my bed.  Everyone is resting.  I intend to do nothing.  I have no idea what we are eating for supper.  Probably popcorn.  We will see how that works.  It just hurts and I’m done for the day.

I hope you guys don’t mind my sporadic writing until the baby comes.  I’m at the point of the pregnancy where I can only do what I can do, and I refuse to feel bad about the rest.  It’s a motto that has been keeping me sane.  I will crawl back into my hermit hole now, and just rest.  God is still good.  All the time.

My Planting Season

After wrestling our kids in church yesterday, I turned around to see one of my friends.  As we both unleashed our kids to go into the fellowship hall and get some treats, we looked at each other and gave a collective sigh.

Sunday mornings are hard.

Our day started out so great.  I was able to get some Bible reading in before the rest of the family was up.  I was able to at least work through my prayers for my family.  I lingered on my prayer notes for David.  Not that David is worse than the rest of my kids, but Sundays are harder days for him.  We had talked the night before and he wanted to do so good today.  I wanted this victory for him.  I keep forgetting that God can use failures just as easily (if not more) as victories to teach us things.

I’m not sure what exactly made it unravel.  There was a miscommunication with his breakfast.  It was no one’s fault, and a complete mistake (long story), but he ended up having 2 heaping bowls of cereal he thought he could have, but actually had one of his highest allergens in it: soy.  About 20-30 minutes later, he was on the floor, in the fetal position, overwhelmed by life, overwhelmed by sounds, words, people, mad at the world… once again.  Parents with kids with SPD know there’s a difference between a tantrum and a meltdown, and this was a meltdown.  Was it the cereal?  His reactions are neurological/nervous system based.  I don’t know.  Maybe?  Sigh.  Part of me thinks that’s just him on Sundays.  That’s not the point.  In fact, I’m way off on a rabbit trail.

Sometimes my prayers effect my kids.  But more often than not, they effect me.  It’s like God takes a hold of my brain, and puts a hedge around it.  It’s like I hear his truths playing like a broken record in my heart.  When one of my kids starts falling apart, and I want to give into anxiety, discouragement, and/or embarrassment, he gives me clarity.

There were 3 things that were playing like a broken record for me yesterday morning after my prayer time and throughout the morning:

1) This is not the time for harvest.  This is the time for planting.  I am in the planting season with my kids.  I’m planting truth.  I’m planting love.  I’m planting wisdom.  I’m planting skills.  I’m planting discipline.  If I have learned anything from living on the farm, it’s how opposite the farming world is from the instant-gratification life I knew in the city.  Food just doesn’t appear out here.  We don’t just order chicken nuggets.  We know something had to die, bleed out, get cleaned, chopped up, fried, and served.  We see the cost, the time of growing something from an egg, from a seed, from the newborn stage.  There is a time to plant.  There is a time to nurture, there is a time to water.  There is a time to wait.  There is a time to harvest.  There is an order to it.

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Farmers are some of the most patient people I know, because they literally watch their grass grow.  They don’t wave around their hands and moan that they have no harvest 5 minutes, 5 days, or even 5 weeks after they planted.  They know there’s a time for planting.  This does not surprise them every year.

Farmers also know that they’re only capable of modifying the environment, and even then, only to an extent.  They can manage the health of the soil, the planting, and the harvesting.  They can manage the weeds (to an extent) and depending on whether or not their crop is rain dependent, or other means of irrigation, they control the water.

But no farmer can make a seed grow.  That’s entirely out of their hands.  They can only control parts of the environment up to their capability.

There is nothing instant about growing things.

Dear friends, I’m simply in a season of planting.  When I remember that, I feel so much less of a failure.  We should not let the technology culture of instant-results effect how we see ourselves as parents.  We should not plant a seed in our child, and if it doesn’t take root immediately we say to ourselves “What am I doing wrong?”  Nothing.  We are planting…not harvesting yet.  Patience.  This is part of the process.

2) The Holy Spirit has access to my children’s brains.  This is something that I’ve heard Sally Clarkson say over and over again, and most recently again in a recent podcast of hers this last week.  She’s a great mentor mom who has dealt with out-of-the-box kids.  This truth is one that has been replaying over and over in my mind during these stressful times.  God has access to my child’s brain, my child’s heart, in a way that I don’t have.  As all of my children have been getting older, I feel a distinct shift in my role.  I’m not sure if it’s my parenting style changing, my kids getting older, or just my growing awareness that I am not enough for my kids, nor was I designed to be.

My kids were designed to crave God, need God, and long for God.  More often lately, when I feel as though I’m at the end of my rope with one of them, I fall less into despair that I’m failing them, and fall more into the awareness that the end of my rope is a cue from God that he’s got this from here.  It’s where I stop.  “OK, God.  You’re turn.  You talk to them.  You speak to their hearts.  You can reach them in a way I am unable.  You are the expert on hearts.”  Instead of teaching my kids how to be good in one more way, because it’s just not working anymore, I’m just pushing them towards the grace of God with every ounce of strength I have, knowing that God will catch them.

3) God is holding my kids.  This is somewhat related to the above point, but it’s something deeper, for me.  I sometimes sense this spiritual battle surrounding my kids and I can do all sorts of things that I feel are “insurance” that they’re going to make it whole through life.  I can think that if I just keep homeschooling them, they will love the Lord, or if I can just teach them enough honor and respect than they will learn to honor and respect God, or if I parent a certain way, I will have this insurance policy that God will have to take them then.  It’s a trap, I think all Christian parents fall into in their own ways, through their own legalistic bents.

But God loves them deeper than we can see.  They are part of a greater story than we can imagine.  As I prayed yesterday morning, my mind drifted back to my particular family history, my particular family sins that have gone down through the generations, and it was as though God spoke to my heart, that my kids were part of His redemption story, in a way more grand than I could possibly imagine.

When my kids are baptized, I have requested the same song in each service: In Christ Alone.

There’s a verse in that song that goes like this:

No power of hell, no scheme of man

Can ever clutch me from his hand.

God is holding my kids in his hand.  He loves them more fiercely than I ever could.  He has access to their brains, and their hearts.  And me?  I’m just a farmer-mother planting seeds day in and day out.  But God is the one making things grow.

Knitting and Reading

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Knitting

I have a bit of finishing work left for the lace sweater for myself.  We all know how quickly I do finishing work.  In other words, I’ve cast on another project to take to the lake, and carry around in my bag.  This is the first knitting project for the new baby.  It’s a Latte Baby Coat for this winter for him.  I chose Cascade Superwash wool.  I tend to favor “real” wool to super wash, as I don’t mind hand washing them.  I actually think sometimes it’s easier, and it has properties to the fiber that benefits babies so well.  But this happened to be cheaper, and there’s some great colors to choose from.  I’m nearly done with the body, as this is a super-fast knit, and will likely be onto the sleeves in the next few days.

Reading

Several people have told me in the last few years that I absolutely must read For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.  I favor more of a traditional classical homeschooling style, and this book is centered on a Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, which in all honesty, Charlotte Mason is just a flavor of classical.  Some classical educators say that Charlotte Mason was the greatest classical educator of all time.  The reviews my friends gave said it encourages you to learn deeper, and not spread your time so thin.  I love the idea of digging deeper, and developing observation skills and imagination, which I believe are the strong points of a Charlotte Mason style education.

Since I have started reading it, I’ve been underlining things like crazy.  I’m absolutely loving this book, and can’t believe I haven’t read it before.  I love the base philosophy that children are persons.

Children in need are in every church, school, and community.  They are often emotionally adrift, without the sweet and natural security of their parents’ marriage to give a base to their family life.  Parents become tense and stressed, trying to fit fast-moving careers into ordinary human life.  Schools become mechanical, where the child all too often doesn’t really count.  TV becomes a sedative, stilling active play, reading, talking, sharing.  Planned activities crowd out personal growth and creativity.  And the god of money, status, and personal ease and pleasure seeps in everywhere like a noxious gas.

If Christianity is indeed true, then every last little child matters.  Bright to dull, privileged or from any variety of troubled background, each is valuable.  Persons matter.

Here’s another:

This is an individual who thinks, acts, and feels.  He is a separate human being whose strength lies in who he is, not in who he will become.

And another:

Look well at the child on your knee.  In whatever condition you find him, look with reverence.

That last one reminds me of how my grandpa used to look at me.  It’s as though he never forgot that every person is made in the image of God, therefore every person reflects God in some way.  This book is laying a foundation of education based on this principle, and I’m loving it.

Then she mentioned “L’Abri” and I nearly fell off my chair.  L’ABRI?!?!  As in, Francis Schaeffer?  Edith Schaeffer?  Edith’s book The Hidden Art of Homemaking is one of my favorites!!!  I’ve read it at least 3 times so far.  I love how Edith wrote about the ministry of hospitality at their L’Abri home in Europe.  When homeless men would come to her house, asking for food, she would make them up a tray of food.  She said that she was always sure that the tray had linen napkins, and a vase with a flower bud on it.  She always arranged the food on their plate in an artful way because she wanted to remind the homeless wanderer that he was made in the image of God, and that imagine within him cannot fade no matter his circumstances, and that every human deserves that respect.

I love the Schaeffer’s writing.  As it slowly dawned on me, and I finally looked at the author biography, I realized that this book on homeschooling is written by Francis and Edith’s daughter: Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.  I had a mild fan-girl, freak out moment.

Why didn’t anyone tell me she was a Schaeffer from L’Abri?!?!  I would have picked it up years ago had I known they had a book out on homeschooling.  Why did I not know this?!?!

So, needless to say, I’m eating this book up like candy now.  My mind can barely handle this.