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.

 

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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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quiet, hot summer

We are here, I promise. Our days right now are quiet and hot. The last couple weeks:

My nephew, Adoniah Jude, was born on August 2nd – four days after we got home. It was difficult for me to miss the birth and I sat on Skype with Lili in Indiana and my dad in Bolivia until I finally slept, waking up to check on updates every hour or so throughout the night. I am so proud of my sister and am amazed at her strength and endurance through an extremely long and intense birth. I just saw the little guy today for the first time. He is precious.

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August 6th was Ayden’s fourth birthday! 4? How did that happen? It seems like just yesterday I was holding him in my arms, an infant needing protection and a quiet, safe place. Now he is a four year old riding his new bike down the road, nailing bits of wood together, becoming always a little bit bolder in the ocean waves, making me a cup of coffee in the morning. He is sensitive and gentle and deeply moved by others’ suffering. He recently drew my attention to an elderly woman in a wheelchair who only has one leg. She was being pushed door to door by her young granddaughter to ask for what help would be given them. Ayden’s initial response was a desire to help this woman. I am thankful to God for giving Ayden, my little flame, a fire of compassion at such a young age.  We spent his day with friends at Tenacatita beach.

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Over the weekend the kids started showing signs of chickenpox so we have been keeping a low profile – which is not an easy thing now that Abuela, Tio Tomas, and the Philips family of 3 are here! We want to keep Ayden and Willow away from baby Adoniah and from the many children and adults in our neighborhood who have never had the virus. They don’t understand it and at times it can be difficult to say “no”. Their cases are quite mild, so far, and they are not in any discomfort though it seems to be worse during the night; they have not been sleeping well.

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I am reading a lot and trying to get recipes and menus organized so that when the season is in full swing we have fewer runs to the local taco stand or pub and more homemade, nourishing meals. I have been holding on to many verses from Psalm 68 as I watch and read about the conflicts in Gaza and Israel, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine. It can easily become overwhelming and depressing… “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.”

I just finished reading “I Shall Not Hate” by Izzeldin Abuelaish and would recommend it to anyone interested in understanding a bit more the conflict between Israel and Gaza. It was extremely eye opening to me and has caused me to re-examine my own quickness to judge situations and people.

Ben is working away on fixing up espresso machines and grinders, doing projects on the roaster and the house in general, and basically being the rock of our home. He is always helpful with dishes, picking up toys, running errands, entertaining the children, letting my sleep in, improving our home and our business, encouraging us and always learning and growing himself. I am so blessed!

dear mother of young children

As summer begins here we are coming out of a time of business. Throughout the winter months we were busy with the cafe, baking, coffee roasting, church, beach days, eating out on our own or with friends, and as that season came to an end in April we packed up and caught a plane North. We spent three weeks traveling around my husband’s home state of Missouri and then wrapped up our trip with my sister’s wedding in northern Arkansas. The longest time we were in one place was 7 nights at a condo with my family preparing for the wedding celebrations. The kids did great but now that we are home in Mexico the exhaustion and stress is evident in them.

They spent three weeks playing with friends, uncles, aunts, grandparents; they swam in swimming pools and played at playgrounds; they endured being dragged around thrift stores and antique shops; they camped and sat around bonfires late into the night. They loved it. And yet, all this constant movement and entertainment seems to have left them irritable, unable to settle down and sleep through the night (Willow is up every 2.5 – 3 hours throughout the night right now), and virtually unable to play together. For a mum and dad all this equals exhaustion.

As different as our lives are, dear mother of young children, I believe it is possible that you might be finding yourself in a similar season. So I write you this letter to encourage you, and myself. We will find a new rhythm and a new grace for our families. Creating a safe haven in our homes takes work and planning ahead; it involves inspiration and imagination; it requires sacrifice and energy. So with all you can muster, let’s get started! Here are a few ideas that help me:

With my kids, whining and hunger usually go hand in hand. Whining, of course, is one of the easiest ways to drive me crazy! So to save all of us from having breakdowns I try to have healthy snacks on hand:
yogurt, fruit or veggies cut up in the fridge, cheese, nuts
Sometimes we make an event out of a snack:
an air popcorn popper is an event that everyone can participate in
I let my littles chop up their own banana or avocado

There are tons of recipes and ideas for crafts online! Yesterday we made play dough and I have a recipe for finger paints in the queue. I often have to sit with them during these projects and we have fun doing it together.  Painting with paintbrushes is another favorite.

We have a couple old, beat up mattresses that we pull out for nap time upstairs where it is cooler now. These mattresses double as a running  and jumping course. My kids love jumping along a path of mats and mattresses or from a sturdy stool onto a mattress.

Sometimes a change of scenery is all we need to get over the hump of the day. We go for a walk in the stroller, run to the corner store for groceries, sit at the beach for a while, or drop in and visit a friend. If I’m not up to going out I’ll just set up something for them in a different room in the house – maybe a fort or a snack area.

Tried and true activities for my 3.5 year old include a length of rope to tie things up with (hopefully not his sister!), cooking or baking anything, and “washing dishes”. My 2 year old loves anything to do with water! Sometimes a paintbrush with a little bucket of water and some object to paint is all she needs.

I am also a firm believer in unstructured play times.  I think it helps little ones develop their imagination and learn how to play and problem solve together on their own, strengthening a healthy independence. Occasionally I have to get them started but usually they are pretty inventive. I know this can be hard at the beginning when kids are used to being entertained but it is so worth it as I watch them sing, dance, and play in their own worlds.

Lastly, dear mother of young children, I promise that someday we will sleep again. Someday. We will eventually get back that hour of precious quiet time with tea or coffee in the morning and that relaxing dinner spent in conversation with the hubby. For now, grab those few moments you can find and just whisper a prayer of gratitude for your precious littles and for the immense honor and privilege we have been given in being their mums.

I am inspired by this playlist these days: Hillsong United ZION acoustic session

Love and blessings,
a beach bum mama

January 2014

IMG_4841 IMG_4846 IMG_4848 IMG_4852 IMG_4854Here are some pictures taken in the last few days – those kids love to help in the kitchen! Business is picking up for us here at La Taza Negra and we are roasting and baking just enough to stay ahead. We are slowly saying our goodbyes to all the family who came for the holidays… I will post pictures of our Christmas and New Year’s celebrations soon.

Epiphany was celebrated quietly at home, all of us piled in the big bed with our Bibles open to the story of the wise men and their gifts and St. John’s encouraging words:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. . . The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. . . The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

We stared at the candles burning brightly across the room, lighting up the play things and the piles of clothes, the pictures on the walls and the cough medicine by the bed. Lighting up little faces barely understanding the light in the darkness. It was a good way to start the year.