Family Day

There are somethings that are important, and yet they never make it to the calendar.  I want my kids to know where they come from, know why certain traditions are important, and understand that their lives are part of a bigger picture than just them as an individual.

Enter: Family Day.

It’s an idea I grabbed from The Life-Giving Home book.  The idea is to take one day a year as a family and reflect on your family history, share stories, pour over photo albums and scrapbooks, and end the day with taking your own family pictures.

IMG_6207

 

Ours didn’t go quite according to plan, but it was worthwhile nonetheless.

I scheduled our family pictures, but due to the fact that my kids are covered in mosquito bites at the moment, I decided to delay.  Our photographer was dealing with some sick kids too, so it all worked out.

But I decided to press forward anyway.

Then Knut said that he couldn’t get out of farm work that day, but I decided to press on anyway.  In hindsight, I should have delayed for the weekend, since the photographer was the main appointment on why I had picked that day.  But at that point, I had already arranged to meet with various grandparents, and I didn’t want to rearrange all of that.

The day started out with a big showdown between Knut and one of the kids.  This kid was having a meltdown, and Knut was desperately trying to hold him/her together so I could have this big day I had planned.  I finally told him to just go to work, and let this child figure out that they were missing out.  We just started without.  About an hour later, the child joined us as was fine the rest of the day.

IMG_6221

So while that was going down in the kitchen, the other kids and I were up in my bedroom, where I have a little cabinet filled with all the family trinkets, awards, albums, etc.  I just brought out all the scrapbooks and photo albums and the kids spread them out all over the bedroom, and were asking questions.  I was answering the questions with stories, and the kids were getting more and more delighted.  The giggles and laughter are what brought the cranky child back to us (after their morning chore was finally completed).

IMG_6218

We did face-time with my mom down in Arizona, and she shared stories of when she was growing up in Japan as a missionary kid.  She talked about the 12 hour train rides alone to her boarding school in Tokyo, and how lonely she got.  She told some funny stories too.  When they were recently up here, she was nearly non-stop storytelling.  My kids love a good family story.

After that we drove over to Knut’s parents house, where my mother-in-law had surprised us with a gorgeous tea-party laid, and told the kids about the time she broke her wrists as a preschooler, and how they would dress up their kitties.  After our snack we went to another table, where there were photo albums and she told us story after story about the people that she remembered in them.

We went home after that, had some lunch, and had our quiet time.

IMG_6197

After quiet time, we headed out to Knut’s paternal grandfather who is now 100 years old.  His mind is still as sharp as a whip, though he can’t see much anymore.  The kids gathered around him, and he shook all of their hands with a big smile on his face.  The kids asked him questions.  We learned one of his chores growing up was helping his dad milk their 12 cows.

Silje has been learning to play the violin.  This last year she grew into a full sized violin, and as Knut and I have been debating whether or not we should rent one, or if it would be smarter to buy her one, a cousin of Knut’s offer to let Silje use the old family violin (that officially belongs to him) until we decide.  He was excited to have the instrument be used again instead of in storage, as instruments are made to be played.  This family violin is a bit beat up, but still gorgeous.  It belonged to the father of this 100 year old grandpa that we were visiting.

So we asked him where his dad bought the violin.  Did he bring it over from Norway?  He said that his dad purchased the violin in Minneapolis…for $15.  When we got home and told Knut that, he wondered out loud how big of a splurge that must have been.  He wondered what that would be compared to the price of a plow back then.  Next time we go into visit Bestefar, we’ll have to ask him how much a plow would have cost back around the time the violin was bought to get a better idea of the extravagance of such a purchase.

Bestefar, (that’s what Knut calls him.  The kids call him “Oldefar” which he prefers they do.  It’s Norwegian for “oldest grandfather” or “great-grandfather”) well he got to hold Bjorn for a few minutes, and spoke to him in Norwegian for a bit.  Since family members who speak Norwegian better than me weren’t there, I had to ask him for a translation.  Basically he was telling little Bjorn that he had gotten so big since last time, and he thought that he was going to grow into a big, strong man like his father.

After that we went to visit Knut’s grandmother on his mom’s side this time.  She lives in a different nursing home.  We were so blessed that she was very alert and able to talk that day.  Many times when we visit her, she’s so confused that she can’t speak, or she will start the first few words of a sentence, and then get lost, and when she realizes she’s lost, she gets frustrated or sad.  Sometimes she doesn’t talk back at all.

When we showed up, she was alert, and greeted the kids.  She was able to answer so many questions that they had.  I haven’t seen her this good in months, so I felt like that afternoon was just a special blessing from God for our special day.

I was able to draw some family trees for the kids, so they could learn who their cousins were and who their second-cousins were, and how to tell the difference on the family tree.  I was going to do more with them, but I was getting tired near the end of the day.

It wasn’t a physical tired, though I know I have reason for that.  I wasn’t expecting family day to be so emotionally exhausting.  

IMG_6224

It didn’t occur to me that looking at pictures of people I have loved who have died, and holding tender gifts from family members I haven’t seen in many years, though they are still alive, thinking about my nieces and nephews who I haven’t seen in over a year, living so far from my family who were just here visiting me.

IMG_6225

It was all emotionally exhausting.  I cried more than once.  Once in front of the kids because it just spilled out.  2 all out cry-fests when they were resting.  When you grow up in a broken home, or when people you love have passed away, even recalling the good stories can bring tears.

And yet, I don’t regret it.  

Family day was one of the best things I think I have done as a mother, and I hope to make this a yearly tradition.  There were so many stories we didn’t get to.  I feel like we just scratched the surface of all I wanted to do.  Talking about loved ones who are gone, sharing both the good stories and the bad, so there’s a balance to their perception, was so rewarding.  So deeply hard, but so rewarding.

I can’t wait to do this again next year.  Hopefully with time, I will be able to pull off a Family Day without crying.  It was probably a good thing I rescheduled the family pictures that night!

Stubborn Walk and Our Puppy

IMG_4689IMG_4693

IMG_4700

IMG_4703

IMG_4709

IMG_4713

IMG_4715

IMG_4722

IMG_4724

IMG_4732

IMG_4741_edited-1

IMG_4743_edited-1

IMG_4747

 

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.

God with Us

Have patience with me.  I’m going through some stuff.  I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but I have no idea how to sugar coat how hard it’s been.

Like always, I’ll just write my way through it.  Many dear friends have been asking how I’ve been doing since David’s new diet that restricts several foods and put my world upside down.  I’m not sure how to respond.  The rhythm of my day looks kind of like this:

numb.

numb.

numb.

freak out on everyone.

guilt.  apologies.

numb…numb…numb…numb.

yell at everyone, over everything.

guilt.  apologies.  numb.

You get the idea.

Last friday, it was chicken butchering day.  A team of butchers came out to our farm and Knut and his cousin were busy helping them outside, and I was busy inside with the kids, and swatting the 186 flies that had come into my kitchen the day before as Knut was working on fixing the rotted front door frame, and let a bunch of flies in.  All day on Friday, as I went around, swatting flies, my chest just hurt.  It was a physical hurt, and one I’m familiar enough to know what it means.  It meant my anxiety was not in control, and a panic attack was looming.  That made me fear, which made the pain worse.  It’s how this whole anxiety cycle works.  Some of you know exactly what I mean.

My go-to in managing this chest pain is some medicinal tea which works the majority of the time.  I have tried several things, and this is what works.  I was drinking cup after cup after cup of this tea and I couldn’t shake it.  Swat!!  Slap!!  Flies were everywhere.

Continue Reading

Dependence

IMG_3249There’s a thought that’s been circling around in my head the last few weeks, perhaps longer, about dependence.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess this is an especially big problem in America.  I think it’s rooted in the idea of charity or welfare, and our destain for it.  We don’t mind giving charity as long as it’s temporary, with measurable improvement.  We don’t mind welfare as long as we are certain that the recipients are worthy, and it’s temporary.  (Emphasis on “temporary.”)  We want them to be working to get out of welfare.

And yet, this post isn’t about welfare or charity.  Though I could easily follow this rabbit trail for a few thousand words.  This post is about how we let our view of them effect our view of dependence on a very, very personal level.

I was sitting on my porch the other day, looking out over our yard and watching the kids ride bike and chase the dogs.  I was thinking about how I’ve needed God so much these last few years since my car accident.  I’ve been so very dependent.  I haven’t always been able to get food on the table, and God provided.  I didn’t always have childcare for my doctor appointments.  God provided.  Sometimes I would walk into an appointment, not knowing what my kids would do in the waiting room by themselves but I was literally left with no other choice, and one of my friends would be waiting for me there at the office, saying she just felt I needed her that day.

My work ethic, patience, pain tolerance, teaching ability has essentially been broken and I’ve been left with no other choice to depend on God for very, very practical needs.  As my strength has been improving these last months with some physical therapy, and continued treatment, I finally see light at the end of the tunnel that it won’t always be this way.  I will be myself again.

I won’t need God so much.

Continue Reading