Sunny Skies

After much preparation, we packed up everyone and headed out to visit my family down in Arizona and California.  We have traditionally driven down in the 2 day (15 hours each) drive, but last year we skipped it as I didn’t think I could make the trip with my bad neck, and the year before was especially bad with 3 of the kids getting sick on the way down.  This year we finally bit the bullet and flew us all down, even though it required we drive 3 hours to a cheaper airport.  While the 3 1/2 hour flight beat 2 long days driving for sure, it wasn’t a piece of cake either.

Ingrid and David had the toughest time, but the rest of the kids were pretty good troopers.  Solveig kept telling me.  “I’m not afraid of heights.  I like looking outside.”  When we landed, I instinctively put my hand across Ingrid, and I think the landing startled her so bad that once we slowed down and I put my hand down, she grabbed it and put it back on her tummy just in case it happened again.
We are here now, though.  My neck is in bad shape.  Handling the kids along with Knut, and just sitting for so long which hurts, was rough.  Actually, at baggage claim once we landed, I was feeling nauseous from the pain, and sat in a pile of coats and backpacks.  Knut took the kids over to get the checked bags.  One by one he brought the ornery, overtired ones back to my pile of stuff, and after a few minutes, I was sitting with my head in my hands, on a pile of stuff, surrounded by 3 kids who skipped naps and were over an hour past their bedtime, screaming, and Knut and 2 other kids (Silje and Elias) were helping him haul the rest of the bags over to us.  We had drawn quite a crowd at that point, of people chuckling about how tough it is to fly with kids, and a very nice service man loaded up all our bags on his cart and brought it out to the drive-up for us where we were to meet my parents.  Really, we encountered only friendly people who were delighted to see kids running around the whole trip.  Even business men, would pull out their phones and show us pictures of their kids they were missing.  That made me happy that our crazy brood was welcome everywhere.  In the past I remember getting glaring looks whenever we brought an infant with us on a plane.  It wasn’t so this time.
It is so good to be “home” though.  This morning I woke up feeling better, and the kid have been having fun being at Grammy and Papa’s house.  I’m taking it easy.  The kids absolutely love not having to wear coats.  When taking into account wind chills back home, it’s nearly 100 degrees warmer here.  Well, not today actually.  It’s the coldest day today for the trip, being in the low 60s.  It will soon be much warmer.  My mom is trying to bundle my kids for this cold spell, which they find funny.

My mom got each of the kids a blank notebook and a bunch of scrapbook supplies so they can document their fun vacation.  They’re really having fun with that.

David is having the toughest time, not understanding the lack of wide open spaces, and wanting to run and run, and not having quite enough back yard to suit the speed of his legs.  Thank goodness for parks!  I’m looking into getting adjusted while I’m down here, as I’m still hurting from the trip down, and honestly a little nervous about flying back already.  I need to not think about that right now.  Right now we have some lovely days with my parents and grandparents, and then we’re driving to San Diego to visit my sister and her family by their new home just a few short miles from the beach.

Then we will visit my brother out in Los Angeles, who has a very special surprise for them that is so secret, that I shouldn’t even blog about it.  We’ll also see some dear friends of ours, and then head back to my parents for some rest before we head home.

As a mom of 5 kids, I’m loving so much being “mothered” by my mommy.  I have missed not being here.  My kids felt at home instantly (even little Ingrid), even though they hadn’t been here in 2 years.    My mom is showing them pictures of my brother and sister and I and they are all getting so much attention.  My Papa (wonderful step-dad) had to work a bit today, and David has been anxiously waiting for him to come home so they could play chess.  Papa was his original chess teacher, and I have a feeling there will be dozens of games before we make the next leg of our journey.

I’m Blessed

This morning has a Fall-ish feeling to it.  We felt the need to put on slippers and wrap ourselves in sweaters.  It will likely warm up soon, but there is definitely a change in the air.  I’m tempted to put up Fall decorations, but Knut still forbids it.  I’m not sure if he’s ready for Fall yet.  :)

My parents are on their way home today to Arizona.  We’ve had a really good time, like always.  As always, we put them to work, as they always insist on “doing life” with us when we are here, instead of pulling everything to a full stop and “vacationing mode.”  It works best that way with little kids around.  We did spend some time out at the lake, though, and played lots of games and stayed up late talking a few times.

Last night we reminisced over all the things we have done when they have visited us.  We have taken them to a wedding of our friends, and a funeral of Knut’s grandpa.  Over the years we have involved them in painting the summer kitchen, peeling wallpaper, fixing a chimney, and now, siding the barn.  They do probably 30 sink loads of dishes while  they’re here, as I barely have a chance to say “Oh, I can do that, sit down” before it’s just done.

It’s not done yet, but one of the 2 difficult sides got done, and a lot of the second difficult side.  All the curves and windows and doors made for lots of tedious measuring.  So I heard.  I just watched…mostly from the kitchen, trying to keep up with the garden produce…still.

I also invited over some of Knut’s cousins for the afternoon who are only in town once a year, and we missed them last year.  Then some of my mom’s cousins were in town the next day, so we had another day of visiting and passing around stories.  Lots of pie has been consumed.

The day my parents got here, Silje excitedly took out her bunny, Muffy, and we watched her hop around the porch as Silje told them all about her beloved rabbit.  We stuck her back in her cage, and went on with things.  The next morning, we found her nearly dead in her cage, barely breathing.  We got her out, called the vet, and before anything could be done, she died.  I have no idea what happened.

Talking to a rabbit breeder, this sometimes happens.  Apparently baby rabbits are as touchy as baby chicks.  Sometimes there just isn’t a reason.  She had spilled her water in the night, and her feet were a bit wet, but that is the only thing we can think of that happened that was bad.  Could a few hours of wet feet do her in?  Granted, she was not in the hutch we were planning for her with the softer bedding, yet.  Oh, the guilt that goes with all of the should-have’s in our mind.

Later that week, I got a message from a local breeder who didn’t have any rabbits to sell in the breed that Silje wanted awhile ago.  She said she was about to visit her friend 2 hours away, who bred the Holland Lop bunnies Silje wanted, and had some does available.  If we wanted any, she’d be happy to bring some back for us.

So I told her to bring us two.  Get right back on the horse, right?  So “Princess” and “Pepper,” our 2 new bunnies are now cozy in the chicken brooder, which is a much larger, more cushy bedding space for rabbits.  (Pictures to come.)  All of that happened during this week’s visit as well.  The bunnies can have that big space until we get new chicks this spring, and hopefully we’ll have a bigger hutch for them ready by then, as we’ll get a buck down the road from this breeder as well.  Watch out 4H, Silje will be at the fair with rabbits next year, by hook or by crook.  It has been quite a roller coaster week of emotions for Silje.  I was so blessed to be able to just hold her and mourn with her as she cried, and I was so surprised and delighted that we heard news of new available rabbits at just the right time.

The kids are heartbroken to see Grammy and Papa go today, too.  They pour so much time into each of the kids while they are here.  We can’t wait for them to retire and turn into snowbirds, spending their summers up here near the farm.

Oh, I love my parents.  I’m so blessed when they are here.  I’m also so excited to be starting a new school year with the kids next week, and the knitter in me is squealing for joy that the weather is turning cold.  What can I say.  I live in a cold place and love it.

I’m blessed.

I’m Blessed

Elias at the sling shot range.

I asked David to take a picture of me doing the slingshot.  He got my elbow, which is pretty close.

We just got back last night from a long family weekend away.  We returned to a place very special to me.  I worked out at this camp 16 years ago.  It can’t be that long, but I did the math twice, and that’s what the calculator says.  I just had a service job.  I cleaned dishes and toilets, and helped out in a number of jobs.  It still holds my heart as my favorite job ever, besides the one I have now.  My “bosses” back then still work there now.  Really, they were more like mentors with high expectations than bosses.

In the last 16 years, the camp has continued to grow, and has had a chance in recent history to expand their property on the lake, and take on new campers.  Silje and David have had a chance to go multiple times, and next summer will be Elias’ first chance to go by himself.  I have been able to attend their quilting retreats in the spring twice, though it doesn’t always work out for me to go.  This place is a sanctuary for me, and I hope will be for my kids as well.

3 times a summer, they hold a family camp, where whole families can rent cabins and stay out there.  Since we normally go down to Arizona to visit my family for vacations, we haven’t done this, as we can’t exactly do 2 vacations a year.  But Elias and Solveig really struggle with carsickness, and we decided to let them get a big older before we take the big road trip again.  I hope next year.  We need to figure that out because my sister and her family are moving from Phoenix to San Diego, and so now our family will be split.  So it’s very likely our next family vacation will be in San Diego.  We just haven’t even gotten to the point of discussing it, so we’ll see.  My brother lives in California too, and has just flown to meet us at my parents in Phoenix when we go.  But now with 2 siblings in California, that may be our new meeting place. Then again, I’m longing to go to South Carolina these days too…but that’s another long story.  We also have plans for a trip down to Florida, as we have family dotted the whole way down there, and the same out to Oregon.  Not enough time…not enough time.

At any rate, we decided to spend our vacation differently this year, and we spent a long weekend out at Bible camp, for the first time as a whole family.

–I was blessed that the little ones actually slept well, in beds that were not their own, in a strange place.  Well, Ingrid woke up early most days, but overall, we slept.  That was my main concern.

–I was so blessed to sit and eat full meals prepared for me.  With the food prep and dealing with the garden produce this time of year I was longing to leave the kitchen and just not look at it for a few days.  

–I was so blessed by sunsets on the lake, hearing loon calls, sipping tea, talking with old friends.

–I was so blessed with humility.  Yes, humility.  I had gone to one of the sessions on parenting, and afterward, went to go pick up the little ones from the nursery.  Knut would have gone with me but was dying to go on the adventure course.  I didn’t think my back could handle it, so I picked the parenting class.  Anyway, I went to pick up the little ones since my class was done first.  We started back to our cabin so we could get a diaper change for Ingrid, and put the other kids’ crafts there while we were eating.  Elias didn’t want to put his craft there, and Ingrid wanted food, not a clean diaper, and Solveig was along, but not crying.  She was too delighted with her craft.

I passed Silje on her way to the dining hall where we were all supposed to meet, and told her that if she saw Daddy, to tell him I’m at the cabin, and he needed to come help me.  Ingrid had flung her body in such a way in my arms that my neck just hurt and I needed him to help.

She told him I was at the cabin, but forgot to mention I needed help.  So Knut and Silje and David just got in line for lunch.

I got the diaper changed, through the screams, my head began to pound as I felt a serious headache coming on, and tears started to warm my eyes.  I was more scared of how bad it could get then hurt.  Elias was overtired, and I walked with the 3 little ones, slowly, slowly back to the dining hall.  Knut didn’t come.  As we got close, I was hurting so badly I just sat down and let Elias and Solveig run the rest of the way as they could see Daddy in the food line in the distance.  (It was a picnic that day.)  Ingrid was just screaming at me, and I just couldn’t will myself to go up to the line with so many tears in my eyes, and feeling so weak.  I didn’t want anyone seeing me like this.

Thankfully, one of the amazing staff people saw me, and asked if she could help.  Ingrid went straight to her, and she carried her over to Knut, and told Knut I needed some help.  More staff jumped in to help Knut with the kids who all needed a cup or their food cut, etc.

My old mentor/boss came over to hug me for awhile, as I told her how much I struggled being weak in front of my kids, and other people.  I told her how I just hated being limited physically like this, and I didn’t like having to constantly admit to people my weakness.  I hate picking out which activities I think my neck can handle, and saying no to activities I love.  She just spoke so much Scripture into my heart.  She talked about how when we are weak, God is strong.  She talked about God’s grace covering all, and how God is using my weakness to teach my kids the things they need to learn.  He is equipping them through my weakness.

–I’m blessed that I have weaknesses, because my kids need to see that.  They will be blessed through it.

–I’m blessed with the special moments I got with each of our kids while we were at camp.  Knut got to take some canoeing, I got to take some to the slingshot range, David won the carpet ball tournament.  The little girls spent hours at the playground and enjoyed some parachute games as well.   I had a special moment with David when he just needed some prayer, and I got to point him to our great God.  The same opportunity happened with Silje during sunset overlooking the lake, when she needed reminding to bring her cares to God, and I just got to sit and pray with her about the things weighing on her heart.  I was so blessed to be there.  I already see in both of them that they get frustrated with their weaknesses and limitations as well.  It’s a human condition.

–I’m so blessed to come home to our animals, raspberries, flowers, work, and just this life I love so much.  As always, as much fun as vacations are, coming home and sleeping in my own bed is one of my favorite parts.

How has God blessed you this last week?

Getaway

Silje and I took a little weekend trip this last week.  It was the one last getaway off the farm before spring planting starts.  We drove some hours to the Mall of America in the Twin Cities, and there we went to the American Girl store, and the the crowning activity: the gorgeous aquarium they have in the basement of the mall.

I haven’t ever done any trip like this before.  I’ve never just singled out one of my kids for a treat this massive.  It’s something we were planning to do, though, since she was a little baby.  Silje is turning 10 shortly, and is one smart girl.  I guess I think of all of my kids as “kids” but Silje is shortly a pre-teen.  I didn’t put much stock in it, or even think of it until I started seeing the bigger mood swings in her, and seeing her searching for sleep more often, and start getting so tall.  She’s still such a baby in my eyes, but I want to be careful not to treat her as such.  Also, I don’t want to treat her like a grown up when she is still so much a child, even though she has such an old soul.  Talking with friends of mine with teenagers, I asked them if I was seeing things.  Could all of this really be starting this young?  My friends gave me a resounding “yes!”

This awful balancing act of give and take, withholding, pushing forward… I’m told is only going to get harder, and only going to get worse before it gets better.  I’m determined to make the most of it.  I’m determined to give a lot of grace, because I know that personally, I will mess up a lot and will need it as thickly as she will.  We want to do a trip like this for each of our kids when we start to see the pre-teen attitudes emerge, and we can have lots of long talks about emotions, dating/courting, responsibility,  independence, authority, and basically together coming up with a mutual agreeable plan in which we keep communication open, and conversations common.

We spent a lot of time talking, but mostly we just had fun together.  She’s been craving that so much.  We did some shopping, ate out a lot, and visited as many animals as we could.  It totally filled her cup.

I was so proud of my girl as she took me around the aquarium, explaining to me the names of all of the species, and interesting facts about each one.  For instance, in sea horses, the mom give all the eggs to the dad, and he carries all the eggs “to term” in his pouch.  As I’ve stated before, she reads an insane amount of biology books, and marine biology is one of her favorite kinds of biology.  She told me how rays and starfish eat, and why the sharks were behaving as they do.

We got there about way before they even opened, and I think they may have let us in early because we had the place nearly to ourselves for a good 30 minutes.  That was really neat.

We signed up ahead of time for a behind the scenes tour, for which I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera along.  It was just amazing.  We saw the “time out tank” where animals that are bullying other animals or humans are put for a month or two.  There was a giant sea turtle in there at the time, thinking about his behavior.  We do the same thing with our chickens when they misbehave.

We got to see the prep kitchen where all of the animals’ food is prepared, and the big wall chart with the names of each animal, showing which animal gets which food and how much each day.  When the tour guide asked the people on the tour to guess what they fed the jellyfish, Silje raised her hand and guessed a certain species of plankton.  The tour guide said, “Good guess, but try again.”  So Silje raised her hand again and named off some other species of plankton.  (I say other species, because I couldn’t even name you one species of plankton to even write here.)  The tour guide said, “No, but those are great guesses, and I can’t believe you actually know the names of all of those species!”

It was at that point that I realized I’m raising Hermoine from Harry Potter.

(For those wondering, the aquarium grows “sea monkeys” to feed to the jellyfish.)

The weekend was not without meltdowns as the big mall is full of repeated “No.” answers from me to her.  There is so much to do there, so I felt as though I said “no” the whole first day, over and over again.  That was really hard.  We had talked about a loose schedule and basic expectations for the trip before we left, but she hadn’t prepared for all the overwhelming options once we got there.

Since I grew up in Denver, then Phoenix, and lived for a time in Chicago and Minneapolis as an adult, big cities and big malls like this don’t intimidate me.  I did notice for the first time that while I’m a city girl, my kids are country kids.  Silje couldn’t get enough of the escalators.  She wanted to go on every escalator in the mall, and I’m pretty sure she would have been happy if we did that all day.

On realizing that she was so unfamiliar with the city, I took the opportunity to teach her some basic self defense moves, and practical suggestions for if she ever went to college in a big city.  For instance, always have your keys in your hand when going out to a parking lot.  Don’t get to your car and start searching your purse.  That way you have your panic button handy, and the keys make a great weapon if needed as well.  She thought that was pretty funny.  That brought her mind to the idea that should we ever get a black kitten on the farm, she wanted to name him “Ninja.”

She also wanted to chop off her long, nearly waist length hair for the second time in her life.  I got a haircut too.  My hairstylist made Silje laugh out loud a few times.  He was a pretty flamboyant fellow, and super nice.  He had tattoos all over, colored hair, and ear holes stretched out large.  He was really funny.  Silje’s hairstylist was this Barbie-doll look alike, with platinum curls and gave Silje some great tips for dealing with her thick hair, and made some suggestions to alter Silje’s cut out picture of what she wanted her hair to look like.  Explaining that Silje’s hair is so thick, and has a strong wave, she talked Silje into keeping her hair at least shoulder length (Silje was thinking more of a short bob), and she added some nice layers as well as thinned it a bunch.  It’s gorgeous.  I just haven’t caught a picture of it yet.  (Sorry, Mom!)  Silje is very pleased with the result.

My hairstylist asked Silje where she went to school, and she explained she was homeschooled.  He gave a typical response, “I think I really would have liked being homeschooled.  I’m all for it in many respects.”  Then he turned to me, “But don’t you worry about her not having any friends, or being a little weird?”  That’s when Silje laughed out loud.  “Um…I have friends! [mom’s note: she obviously has ears too!] You can find friends in lots of other places besides school.”  None of us mentioned the irony of a so obviously counter-culterual soul doing his own thing, worried about our counter-culteral lifestyle or her turning out “weird.”  I hope she didn’t make him feel too bad.  She got quite the kick out of that.

Ingrid did a terrible job for Knut at home.  Neither of them got much good sleep over the weekend.  She got a runny-nose cold and just wanted Mommy.  Both of them were very eager for Silje and I to get back.  Ingrid doesn’t like me getting out of her sight now, and has started getting really clingy when she’s tired.

All of us (besides Knut of course) still see the chiropractor monthly due to our car accident last summer.  Our appointment was yesterday and all the kids were pretty stiff for it.  I’ve noticed that all of us start falling apart the last few days before an appointment, from migraines, sleeplessness, constipation, or just aches all over.  So I know we still aren’t fully well.  Monthly appointments are manageable, though, so I’m thankful for that.  It was probably not good judgment to leave Knut with Ingrid the tough last few days before her adjustment, which are the worst, but they made it.  We’re all feeling better now, and will hopefully be able to rest better soon.

It was a trip that I hope both of us will remember forever.