Monday, April 30, 2007

The Loveliness of Gardens

Truth be told, I was never much of a gardener before I met Darren. I liked pretty flowers, but could probably identify only a dozen or so by name, and knew even less about how to properly grow and care for them. My parents did have a large, beautiful flower garden when I was little, though, and I can still clearly remember catching butterflies out in the backyard on sunny summer afternoons, patiently watching and waiting until one would finally come to rest. The tickle of its wings against my cupped palms was at once both thrilling and terrifying, and I would always let it go after only a few seconds of captivity. That exhilarating sense of suspense and discovery is something I've always hoped to be able to share with my own children, and as I watched Dylan happily chasing butterflies today in our own backyard, I caught a glimpse of my younger self and was so very, very happy that his Daddy and I have committed ourselves to imparting to our children the joy of gardening, both through our vegetable garden and multiple flower gardens. The shared experience of selecting, growing, and caring for our plants has been so rewarding for all of us, and our gardens have flourished under our loving care. When I first wrote about our newly established vegetable garden, I had no clue, really, as to what to expect in the coming weeks or even months. I was astounded and delighted to discover that after only a couple of weeks, our seeds had already grown so much. Here's a look at our garden as of this afternoon:
I really love this view of the kohlrabi, spinach, and lettuces, which have filled out so much, and Dylan's sunflowers standing tall against the wall.
I think the lettuce is beautiful;
and I think these young sunflowers are amazingly intricate.
Our flower garden is one I love as much, if not more, than our vegetable garden. Darren started a small bed off our back patio not long after we moved into our house five years ago, and it has grown over time to become such a beautifully diverse collection of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and herbs.This Sage is one that Darren uses quite often when preparing pork or chicken.I love the look of these two Oregano plants,and I think the tiny, delicate flowers on this Thyme are simply stunning:There is no other place in the world that I would rather be than here, right at home, among our gardens and the people I love. One of my favorite places to be is sitting at our patio table, watching my children play, watching Darren working in the yard or cooking at the grill, admiring the sights, sounds, and scents of our own little paradise. This is such a blessedly beautiful life.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Turning point

It's been such a long week. A quite emotionally exhausting one, as well, simultaneously navigating several personal hurdles while rejoicing--with cautious optimism--at some other potentially wonderful news we've recently received in two particular areas for which we've been praying especially hard lately. At any rate, Darren remarked to me this morning that it has been far too long since I posted anything on my blog, and I know he's right. So today I've picked myself up, brushed myself off, and have found a new stride, thanks in large part to the lovely morning I shared with my girls while "the Boys" were out getting haircuts together.

Caitlyn graciously decided to host a tea party for Meghan and me, along with, of course, an assortment of stuffed animals. Her entire box of toy food and dishes came out from under her bed, and she dutifully served all her "guests" before serving herself a pear and "coffee". (She is so much like her Mommy!) The sweetness of these small sisters was almost too much for my full and aching heart, and no other party in the world could have been more splendid!Before too long, my sweet guys returned and added even more merriment to our morning. My particularly handsome little man arrived with balloons! (The perfect contribution, of course, to any party!)
And my sweet and thoughtful hubby even had a surprise for me: geraniums! My favorite! He knew how much I had been wanting some for the barrel near our front door (I think they make for such a cheerful welcome) and so he picked up a beautiful variety to plant for me. This one is my favorite!I was able to take a gloriously long afternoon nap with Meghan, a perfectly snugly companion, and Darren is now preparing dinner so we can all eat together before I go to work. I'm working a whole shift tonight, an uncommon occurrence but one I don't mind too much because tomorrow promises to be another perfect day. We'll be having lunch with my dad's family in honor of my Grandpa's birthday, and it has been far too long since I've seen my Grandparents or my I'm very happy and excited.

Next week will be another full and busy one, but I think I'll be back here a little more frequently. I miss you all when I'm away. A blessed weekend to you, friends!

Monday, April 23, 2007

The daily grind

Darren is going back to work this morning.

While he was home recuperating, a large portion of the Christmas decorations I had stacked precariously against one wall of the garage came tumbling down (I wish now that I had listened when he told me that it was a disaster just waiting to happen). Of course I wouldn't let him lift anything, and somehow I never got around to righting the mess myself, either, so it's all still out there, a jumbled mess scattered over one half of the garage floor, beckoning me each time I step out there to start a load of laundry. Which, lately, hasn't been all too often. There's another thing I need to work on today! I've got about two weeks worth of clutter piled high on my kitchen counter, and my entire house is in need of a good deep cleaning.

It would appear that I've got my work cut out for me today!


Can I just mope around for a while, instead? I miss him already.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

This is how we learn

Sometimes when I think too much about actually homeschooling my children, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. "What do I teach? And how? And when?" And on, and on...

I think that part of my problem is I place too much expectation on structure and planning, but that, for now, is just not how this family functions best. I would let myself get so frustrated if I expected our teaching times to follow a set structure or time frame when, in reality, my children are eager to learn all the time. I've resisted the notion of "unschooling" because it sounds so frighteningly vague, although in reality, I really love the idea of child led learning.

So I've been experimenting a little bit. Dylan, lately, has shown a particular interest in maps. We won't officially begin Kindergarten until this fall, but I thought it would be fun to start introducing him to basic U.S. geography. So, we've been reading silly books like The Scrambled States of America. (I love this book. We spend so much time poring over each page, laughing at all the silly little details!) I'm serving his lunches on a cheap plastic place mat that features, in bold colors, a map of the United States. We're playing state identification games like this one, which serves as not only a good map teaching tool but also an excellent way for Dylan to practice his penmanship as he writes out the state names. At lunch today, he tore off a piece of his peanut butter sandwich and said, "Look, Mom, this looks like Florida!" Sure enough, he held in his hand the perfect likeness of the correctly identified state. Tonight, catching a glimpse of the Weather Channel, he accurately said, "Oh, look, there's California." And I'm constantly finding freehand drawings such as this one lying about the house:

I know that "school" won't always be this easy for us. That there will come a time when schedules and structure will necessarily play an integral part of our learning. But, for right now? I--along with my children--am loving every bit of these fun and games.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Meet our newest neighbor!

Darren was enjoying a stroll through his cactus garden this morning, savoring the kiss of the sun and caress of the breeze after having spent most of the past few days indoors. As he passed under our much loved Mexican Elder, he heard a rustling in the underbrush and turned to find one of our pet turtles, awakening from a long winter slumber, searching for breakfast among the cacti and leaves. Then, glancing up as he turned to head back into the house for food, he noticed a beautiful roadrunner perched atop our rock wall, twigs and grass held carefully in its beak. Cocking its head to get a better look at Darren, it paused briefly before hopping into the tree, where Darren discovered the beginning of a nest in progress! When he came to call me outside, I didn't think there was any chance that the beautiful bird would still be there by the time I grabbed my camera. Not only was it still there, but it wasn't the least bit timid, boldly posing as I snapped a few pictures, hopping down from the tree, running through the cacti, hopping back up onto the wall, and darting back down again. I am just indescribably giddy at the thought of one of our very own state birds making its home here in our backyard!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007


Darren's calling me a big meanie right now because, despite the fact that he's wearing a t-shirt, a thick sweatshirt, flannel sleep pants, and lying beneath both a sheet and fluffy down comforter, he's shivering, and I won't give him another blanket. "But I'm cold," he says.

"You're not cold," I tell him. "You're feverish. And I'm not about to smother you under more blankets". As I sit and type I can feel his evil glare boring into the back of my head. He's right. I am a meanie. Would you believe I've actually been making him get up out of bed and walk around?! How dare I?

But really. He is doing quite well. Much better, actually, than either of us expected. Dutiful wife and nurse, I've been giving him sponge baths and fluffing his pillows and bringing him ice packs and pain medication, and, of course, cooking him comfort food. And, since I'm making it anyway, it's what all the rest of us have been eating, too: toasted English muffins. Hot Malt-O-Meal. Tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Dole fruit cups. Ummm, okay, so I see that doesn't really sound like a whole lot of cooking, per se. But it really has felt like a lot of work!

When I was twenty-one and standing starry eyed at the altar, I couldn't really comprehend the magnitude of "in sickness and in health". But now that I am living out that solemn vow, I am just more in love than ever with my precious husband. Difficult as it may be for now, I feel so blessed to be able to take care of Darren as he recuperates from what, really, is considered minor surgery (although I really hate that term "minor surgery", because it in no way conveys the depth of emotion experienced by the affected patient and family. How can any surgery be "minor" when it involves a loved one?)

Okay, enough meanness, now. I'm off to refresh an ice pack and check a temperature and love a little more on my poor sweet husband. Thank you all for your prayers and well wishes during this stressful time. They are very much appreciated!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My husband, the Nerd

I am so proud to have married a man who is, by his very nature, quite...well...nerdy. Make no mistake, I say this with the utmost love and respect! He loves to learn, and think, and discourse on a wide variety of topics. (I am put to shame when it comes to knowledge of world and current events!) We have cable TV because he would be absolutely lost without the History Channel, Food Network, and the Weather Channel. Seriously. He watches the Weather Channel for pleasure!

Still, when he told me this morning that he was going to stop by the bookstore on his way home from work at lunch to get some books to read while he recuperates from surgery (tomorrow! Prayers welcome and appreciated!), I was thinking along the lines of David Baldacci, maybe some Jeffrey Deaver, or, even better, perhaps a few books by James Patterson, a novelist we both immensely enjoy.

But no.

Why am I really not surprised? And why am I still laughing?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Our Easter

We had, truly, such a remarkable Easter. Not at all rushed, we awoke to the sound of Dylan's feet beating a hasty path into our bedroom. "Mom! Dad!" he cried. "The Easter Bunny was here! And come look...." he called, as he ran just as quickly back into the kitchen. Caitlyn, sleeping soundly moments before in bed beside Darren, opened her eyes just a split second after a broad smile formed on her happy face. Meghan popped right up in the center of our bed and couldn't wait to see what all the excitement was about! And so, at twenty minutes to seven on Easter Sunday morning, the rest of us made our way to the kitchen to join in the revelry and--perhaps more importantly--to brew some coffee!

In all seriousness, though, it really was a sight to behold: Dylan, Caitlyn, and Meghan all scrambling to see what the Easter Bunny had left in each of their baskets. I know that it is precisely times like these that I will miss the most when they are all grown and gone. Their contagious enthusiasm and excitement and pure joy makes my heart hurt, sometimes, with an ache that I could never have understood before I was a mother. They are so awesome, my amazing and sweet and beautiful children.

Dylan was absolutely beside himself to find that, just as he had been hoping for, there really was a crucifix of his very own waiting for him right there in his Easter basket, tucked in among an assortment of brightly colored plastic eggs and resting in between a chocolate cross and chocolate bunny. (We took it with us to church later that morning and he was so happy to have Father bless it before Mass.)

Caitlyn and Dylan were so thrilled to see that not only did the Easter Bunny eat all of the sugar cookies and carrots they so thoughtfully left out the night before, but also left a note of thanks on the card Dylan made for him!

Meghan was so cute with her plastic eggs. She would gather as many as she could carry and walk around with them, clutching them to her chest and stooping periodically to retrieve the ones that invariably fell to the floor. She didn't want to put them in her basket, though, no matter how much we coaxed her...she was much happier to hold them!

My mom came over later and joined us for a breakfast of hard boiled eggs, English muffins, and a lovely cake delivered to us by our neighbors earlier that morning. She helped us get the kids ready for Mass and then, in a much more labor intensive endeavor, helped us try to get at least one good picture of all three kids dressed up in their Easter outfits. Believe me, this was no small task! They looked so gorgeous, though, that I was fiercely determined...and ultimately, I was quite pleased with this one--particularly because it is one in which Meghan is demonstrating her trademark "scrunchy face", one that she makes on demand to varying degrees of "scrunchiness" and which never fails to crack us up!

We stopped by my dads house after Mass to visit for a little bit and then came home to prepare our own late lunch. While the ham cooked, we played in the backyard with the chalk the kids got from their Uncle Robby, and then hunted the cascarones we had painted the day before. What fun! This is actually a tradition that my family has enjoyed from my earliest memories of Easter, with all of my twenty first cousins, to now...with all of our own children.

We ate outdoors at our picnic table and it was perfectly lovely. Lots of sunshine, birds singing, good food, and our own little streaker! We had just finished eating when I told the kids that it was time to go in for baths. While Darren and I were busy getting the girls cleaned up, Dylan ran into the house and I was so pleased that he went without argument. Not two seconds later, though, here he comes again...running out into the backyard without a single stitch of clothes! Happily he hopped onto his swing and sailed through the air, laughing all the while as Darren and I were, ourselves, collapsed in fits of laughter. I can only imagine what our neighbors, who were having their own dinner out in their backyard, must have thought. Oh, the scandal of it all! :)

As we were getting ready for bed last night after the kids were asleep, Darren and I realized that this was the first holiday we've ever celebrated entirely on our own. My parents each had other engagements (one of which my brother was also attending), and it was, actually, so nice to just relax and have our own little family celebration. It didn't matter that the house was less than immaculate, I didn't care that our dinner dishes didn't match, it was okay with me that we ate with confetti in our hair, and neither of us minded cleaning up afterward. I love my extended family very much. They are the foundation of all the holiday traditions that I hold so dear. But, there is also much to be said for the new traditions Darren and I are creating for our own family, and I really love that.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Palm Sunday

"Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest." (Mt 21:9).


Have a blessed Holy Week, friends! I'll see you again at Easter!