I planted a garden

This garden… well, it is teaching me patience. I walk out every morning and check on the flower buds but every morning they are still buds. They are closed up tight and I can’t even tell what color they will be. What are those pretty petals doing in there? How long can it take to grow flowers from seed? A long time, apparently.

I also planted a vegetable garden. The first year of our marriage I planted tomatoes and they did really well in spite of my lack of care and know how. Now I spend many mornings and evenings reading gardening blogs and trying to pinpoint which bugs I should be smashing and how to trellis cucumbers. We had a few homegrown salads, some snap peas, and now we are plucking beans off the vine. We’ve gotten a few cucumbers and some new potatoes. The tomatoes are taking their sweet time… but there are lots of green promises of red.

It is incredible to me every time I put a seed in the ground and a few days later up comes a bunch of tiny sprouts. I never expect it to work and somehow it does. My garden is a wild one. I keep throwing flowers in when I read that they are good companions for one plant or another. Or when I get tired of flowers that won’t bloom fast enough I just throw more zinnia or cosmo seeds in. There is a spindly little rose bush smack dab in the middle of the garden. It started as a stump and I tried to rip it out. I am so glad I failed because it has bravely sent out its shoots and given us some deep red roses. The pole beans and cucumbers are out of control. I feel bad for them as they are so obviously sending out their tendrils in hopes of latching on to something but all they get is thin air – actually, it’s quite thick, humid, palpable air right now. But I also kind of enjoy the challenge of sitting in front of the tangle of vines trying to see the prize, a plump, perfect vegetable – grown from a seed!

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The kids like to help sometimes. This has produced thick seedlings in some areas and sparse seedlings in others, broken tomato stems, flowers with half the root ball still out of the ground, and plenty of joy as they finally see the cucumber hanging there ripe for the picking. My kids love cucumbers. Tonight we dug up some pretty, purple potatoes. Everyone participated, even Huck Finn, the kitten. Ayden carried them inside and washed them up at the sink. He said he felt like a farm boy. I catch them tearing off basil leaves as they pass by and in my fear of not having enough basil for late summer pesto I have thrown about 4 packages of basil seeds in the ground. Of course, every seed seems to have germinated so we should be ok.

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In other news, we are leaving next week to a family reunion in Washington State. Back to John’s Island. We are counting down the days!

The weather is HOT right now and we go to the pool at the YMCA almost every evening.
We took a break from the weather and went to the North Carolina mountains for a few days and played with cousins and aunties and uncles.

And here are a couple shots from our little summer solstice party.
It’s a pretty fun summer so far.

Wonder

It’s been a rough couple weeks for us. We have been busy, distracted, challenged, and stressed. I have not been sleeping well for that last few days. It’s been good but rough around the edges. There are many reasons for this that I won’t go into now but I need to tell you that so you can picture today’s beautiful moment. I am sitting on the porch in the shade with a naked Liam nearby, the kids have climbed up a tree and are playing a game involving Star Wars characters. I am reading an article in the New Yorker and Liam is playing with beer bottle caps (Under my supervision, of course. It’s dangerous to leave a one year old alone with beer bottle caps: perfect choking hazard. That’s when Liam is most content though, with a choking hazard. So…).

Liam suddenly looks at me and makes one of his cute, one year old noises. I put down my magazine and look at him as he smiles then throws his head back and lifts his arms, making that adorable “look” noise again. I realize he is recognizing the wind that has just picked up and is blowing the trees all around us. I smile and laugh with him, throw my arms up and say “WIND”! He smiles, arms still overhead, and starts to clap. He is experiencing the sensation of the wind on his skin, in the trees blowing above him. Nothing else. Just experiencing wind. I tried to keep him in the moment as long as I could. It was like freedom for me, that one moment of sheer joy in a natural, everyday occurrence. Why do we cease to enjoy these simple pleasures?

I was reminded of an evening in Melaque when I was sitting down by the ocean watching the sunset. Little Ayden was sitting beside me playing in the sand. He was building something with sticks and bits of shell and plastic bottle caps he had found on the beach. It was summer when the waves are big and boisterous, the only sign of some disturbance out on the open ocean. Suddenly a huge wave crashed, sending spray up onto the beach where we were sitting. Ayden stopped what he was doing and looked up, squinting at the mist hitting his face. He looked at me with the same joy and recognition: that briny ocean water was hitting his face and he knew what was happening. It was no longer just a sensation he couldn’t explain, he was connecting the ocean wave’s spray with the sensation he was feeling on his skin. I had the same response I did today with Liam. The world seemed to pause as I recognized a sensation, the little miracle, that was taking place for my child.

There are no pictures only memories to hold onto and hope they last. But these little moments remind me… There are miracles all around. Just stop. Recognize the small wonders.

 

Spring and kids

Or is it summer? It’s hard to tell these days when the sun is hot on bare shoulders and the temperatures push into the 90’s. But the mornings are crisp and the coffee steams on my porch table. The evenings ask one to pull on a sweater and move dinner outside.

The kids will spend hours playing in the tree fort Ben built, swinging on a rope swing, or reading in the little Spring corner we created that gets just enough sunlight pouring through the honeysuckle and tree leaves. Often I find them clambering up and down and across Ben’s ladders and scaffolding set up. This is usually part of a game involving Nerf guns and swords and a mixed bag of characters: Darth Vader, Han Solo, Spiderman, The Flash, Elsa, Anna, Supergirl, and the occasional baby dinosaur. I get worried when they try to combine the costumes that go with these characters and the ladder climbing, but so far we have not had any accidents. They have only seen Frozen but somehow Star Wars and all the superheros are deeply in bedded in their imaginative play. They love to be read to and we are reading Pippi Longstocking and Mrs. Pigglewiggle along with library picture books and Ayden’s military aircraft and naval vessel books.

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Homeschooling is a continual challenge. We have good weeks and weeks when we don’t do anything structured at all. I blame our lack of routine on Liam who is completely unpredictable. Actually, for the last three weeks he has been predictably fussy, clingy, and will scream any time he is put down. It has forced me into using his nap time (which only happens if he is strapped to my body in a carrier) for doing laundry and dishes and transplanting desperate and dying seedlings into bigger pots. Occasionally I will bounce around with Liam and try to teach letters to the kids but it is exhausting for all of us. Both Ayden and Willow can read easy stories and are great at simple addition and subtraction. They are both so curious and love to be read to so I feel like as long as we keep that up we are in pretty good shape, right?

Our little home is slowly transforming before us. We now have three gardens, 5 chickens and a couple little chicks, and two tabby kittens: Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The kids are learning about chores and love collecting eggs; we have lost many of them in the excitement. Tom and Huck are the newest addition. I have had to lock the poor kittens in the bathroom just to let them rest a while! Liam is fascinated by all the animals, loves to dig in dirt, and is generally always happy if he is riding high in someones arms outside. One of our chickens up and died a few weeks ago and with the help of some farming friends we butchered her and stuck her in the freezer: a stewing hen for a cool day. I feel now that we have butchered our own animal we can call our place a farm.

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Our family has been incredibly blessed with a community of friends who farm in a neighboring county. We met one couple at the local farmer’s market last year and before we knew it we were part of a lovely little potluck group that gets together every 2 weeks. The “core” group is four couples and together we have 8 kiddos and one on the way. Often other friends pop in to potluck and we have had as many as 14 kids on the grass eating sausages and strawberries! When we pull up to potluck, regardless of who is hosting, the children disappear and we don’t see them again until they are hungry. They climb trees, play with goat kids, run through the woods, swing on zip lines, bounce on trampolines, and jump on hay bales until we pack them into the car late that night. We tuck them into bed with grime under their nails, scratches on their knees, and dirt smudges on their faces.

Ayden is six and a half, Willow will be five in two weeks, and Liam just turned one. So hard to believe! In honor of Liam’s first birthday I finally wrote out his birth story and the link is at the very top of the page.

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a recap/winter

Winter was not what I expected it to be, namely, cold. We had cold days and cold winds but we also had days when the temperatures climbed into the 80’s. I enjoyed the moody weather and the kids and I spent many afternoons at a playground meeting new people.

We did have one big snow in January. The kids had been watching the sky all afternoon and just when they had stopped looking for it, tiny little dots began to fall. They were the kind of snowflakes you can only really see out of the corner of your eye. The kids were ecstatic. Slowly the snow began to fall more steadily and the flakes became more visible. We ate dinner and the kids climbed into bed with promises and reassurances about the snow that would be there tomorrow. At 5 AM the kids were out of bed with their faces plastered to the window. The world as they had known it was gone and in its place was a white winter they had only heard of in books. We got 5 inches of soft, powdery snow and it stuck around for a few frigid days; long enough for everyone to get their fill. Ayden and Willow were shocked to find out how cold snow is and then how wet. They could not figure out how to layer and grew frustrated with the mittens, socks, scarves, hats, and zippers. For kids who grew up in shorts and flip flops at the most this was a lot of fuss just to get outside!

Our house has a gas fireplace in the little living room. I have always scoffed at gas fireplaces preferring the ruggedness of chopped wood and ashes all over everything and the “real experience.” I love my fireplace now. It was winter at its best snuggling up on the couch next to the fire with books and coffee. I had dreamed of winter days like that through many tropical Thanksgivings and Christmases.

The kids and I stumbled into a homeschool group that meets every Monday and we love it. We read and discuss books, take nature walks, write poetry, learn how to play new games, create art through many different mediums, and present our creations to the rest of the group. It was incredibly helpful for me as I struggled to figure out what homeschooling was going to look like for us.

On Thursdays our local library hosts a story hour with songs and crafts and we were there every week. I remember the library in Sitka, Alaska when I was Willow’s and Ayden’s age as a magical, almost mysterious, place. The kids and I spent many long afternoons at the library and we usually brought home about 15 beautiful childrens books for the week.

I attempted a winter garden but did not get much to grow. The weather was so erratic and I was late getting things into the ground; a farmer friend told me there were just not enough hours of sunlight. Everything germinated and stayed alive throughout the winter but the radishes, beets, and various greens did not mature. However, my ability to just keep things alive gave me confidence to try a garden in the Spring, so I still count it a success.

a recap/2016

We rang in 2016 on a sandy beach, blowing off firecrackers, watching candled lanterns floating out over the ocean, and of course burning our Christmas tree. I was pregnant with our third baby and we were just gearing up for the busiest part of the season at our little, coastal cafe. For the first time in 5 seasons we were able to breathe during the height of the busyness and in the evenings we moseyed into town to catch live blues, soft rock, or reggae bands which munching on fiery peanuts and sipping cold beers. We made it to pool volleyball and out to the beach during the week. We began to dream about what next year would be like when our staff would be trained to roast coffee and we had even more free time.

But first we were headed stateside for a break from the extreme heat of summer and to welcome our new baby. It was still dropping below freezing when we arrived and we quickly learned to bundle up and sit in the sun when possible. Soon the temperatures warmed and the best of spring arrived, and with it’s full moon Liam arrived as well. We were now a family of five living with friends, Papa working a job, and kiddos playing hard and naked all day in the summer sun. As we made plans to return to our beach town in the fall something unexpected happened. We were offered a new life. In one quiet sentence: “Why don’t you stay?” we were given a choice, an opportunity. In retrospect, I see how over the years Ben and I have mostly taken the opportunity, said “yes”.  And still it has never been an easy decision to make. This one was no exception.

The fall found us house hunting, house finding, house decorating, and home making. We settled in at the end of October and spent a somewhat tumultuous holiday season shuttling back and forth from our new home to visit family and Ben made a trip to Mexico to set up a managing staff for our cafe. And all of a sudden it was New Year’s Eve again.

We had a bonfire, shot off bottle rockets, and burned our Christmas tree. Then we put the kids to bed and things got quiet. What a year… a new baby, a new home, a new job, new friends, new food, a new president, a new culture. It was exhausting and we drank bubbly, kissed, and fell into bed. 2017 had arrived.

Autumn

I did not know when I left my house in Villa Obregon six months ago that I would not be returning. I did not pack up my Christmas ornaments, my journals, my kids’ favorite books. I did not say goodbye to friends. I did not give away extra pots and pans, tupperware, or clothing to my neighbors in need. I stood on the curb and kissed my husband goodbye, telling him we would see each other in a few weeks in Virginia. I took a last glance at the plants on the balcony, leaves lit by the just rising sun, and wondered how many would make it through the sweltering summer and how many I would need to replace upon my arrival home in six months.

Six months have passed and our lives are on a completely new path now. We are staying in Virginia where Ben can work a solid job that will pay our debts. Where we can take the kids to the library and watch them experience snow. Where we can enjoy the crisp fall weather, wear wool socks, grow vegetables and own chickens. It is so much of what we have been dreaming about. We knew that we were coming up on the time to leave Mexico. We knew from the beginning in 2011 that we would not be there forever, that it was a time to enjoy and that one day we would go back to four seasons and chopping firewood and frost on the windowpanes. I have longed for that life.

But I have also loved our life in Mexico. I love the ocean and the beach. I love the people we have served at our cafe and the friends we have made around surf boards and restaurant tables and yoga mats. I love that my kids both learned how to swim and can handle a boogie board in the waves. That they have seen the briny miracles: a whale tail slap the water, dolphins dancing in waves, baby turtles crawling out of their sandy nest, the sun rise and set over the ocean. I feel those miracles make up some of the marrow in my bones and I love that we have shared them. It is hard to walk away from that goodness.

I will be the first to say that our life in Villa Obregon was far from ideal and I am glad that we are moving on. It is not how I wanted the move to happen and there have been tears and sleepless nights as we struggle with making this decision. On hard days we wonder if it is the right decision. I think it is.

These days my little family piles into our minivan and drives to look at potential houses to make a new home in. We go to fall festivals and truck pulls and rodeos. We play on playgrounds and hike around the woods. I am slowly accumulating winter coats, boots, fleece lined jeans. The kids ask once a week if it will snow soon. We say goodbye to Papa in the morning and hug him in the door in the evening light. Ben and I talk about living in America again and how we can stay involved with the poor and the immigrants. The days are cool, we have had plenty of rain and grey skies, and the giant wolf spiders are getting cozy in our closets and boots. We hear the geese honking and watch little yellow leaves fall from the trees. Autumn is coming. There is goodness here.