Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lessons from the garden

I had a huge list of fruits and vegetables that I wanted to be able to fit into our spring and summer garden.  Joel and I dug and hoed, dug and did more hoeing.  We prepared a pretty large garden plot, especially considering that we dug all that hard, dry soil by hand.  But still, there wasn't enough room for all I had hoped to plant.  We dug an extra garden plot for the corn.  Still not enough space.

I planned and mapped out the garden, planting everything as close as possible according to the directions of the seed packets.  If it said to plant something 2 to 3 feet apart, I was sure to plant it 2 feet apart.  As a result, my tomato bushes are like an overgrown jungle.  There is no way to get into the center to pick the fruits.  Will the plants become so immense that they overwhelm and harm one another?

The peas are crowding into the beans; the beans are trying to overtake the carrots.  There are no longer aisles to walk down and the plants are certainly still growing!  How will we reach the vegetables that are ready to harvest?  I'm a novice gardener.  I'm learning as I go!

I'm a novice parent too.  I've never done it before.  Hopefully I'll be a fast learner when it comes to raising my kids!  It would be easy for me to "sow" the lives of my children in much the same manner as I planted my garden.  I would love for them to be taking swimming lessons, piano and voice lessons, art classes, gymnastics, karate, soccer, Spanish, Sign Language, Latin...   The list could go on and on.  Perhaps God had a distinct plan in limiting our transportation and finances in this season of our lives? 

Anna and Arik are so happy at home.  They enjoy playing together, using their imaginations, exploring the mud and bugs in the yard, listening as I read countless stories.  They like to go places from time to time, but they always seem so overjoyed to be home again.

Plenty of relaxed time at home really does seem to be the best "garden" for young children.  I plant seeds of learning; my kids soak it all in due to their natural curiosity and fascination with everything around them.  Childhood to adulthood is one long growing season.  It can be easy to become concerned about what my harvest will be.  Am I providing enough fertilizer, water, sun, and shade?  Am I providing too much?  I can't plant everything I want to in their lives.  So what is the most important?  I want my children to know and love Jesus.  I want them to love and help others.  I want them to love learning and reading.

It was important for me to prepare the soil for the plants in the garden.  I need to provide water and pull weeds, and train a few of them to grow in the right direction.  But mostly, I need to leave them alone and trust that as God provides sun, the vegetables will grow.   Gardening and parenting may just have a lot in common!

Lots of books, and a mean little girl

 It is summer! We are taking a break from full days of school at our house. We've had lots of time for chores, playing, gardening, and oodles of reading.

Here are some of the books the kids and I have read together in the past week or two. We have been spending 2 or 3 hours reading together each day. Today we read The Boxcar Children, the entire thing. My son was doing somersaults on the couch as I read, but he was listening. I had my daughter do a narration of some of the chapters. I'd take a break to do some chores and the kids would beg me to read more.

 Yesterday we read The Hundred Dresses. It is a story about a poor girl who is teased by the other children. The little girl telling the story didn't tease her, but realized the teasing was wrong and yet did nothing to stop it. When I was in grade school and junior high I treated some of my classmates terribly. I was one mean little girl. To this day I feel awful about that, and I wish I could see those people I treated so badly and have a chance to apologize. If you have kids of any age, or are a teacher, this is a wonderful book to read to them.

We've been reading and learning from these books each day as well.

 No book can compare to reading the Bible. Just this week, the book of Mark has given me the chance to teach my kids about circumcision, adultery, and divorce! All topics I would rather they learned about from me than from someone else. It has also given me the chance to teach them about the God who loves us so much that he sent his Son Jesus to save us. And about Jesus, the King who came to Earth as a servant and a teacher.

In the evening, I spend some more time reading! Here are the books I've read this month. What are you reading at the moment? I'm planning to read some classics next. Do you have a favorite that you would recommend?

Monday, June 27, 2011

News from the Orphanage

As many of you are aware, last summer I was able to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo to visit family and also spend a couple days in an orphanage. 

About a year and a half ago, my sister-in-law "discovered" this orphanage and since then she has visited often and has been working hard to help provide much needed funding to cover things like increased staffing, powdered milk for the children, and formula for the babies.

So much has been accomplished to benefit the babies and children who live at Save the Children Orphanage!  A non-profit has been established so we can all partner together and provide support for the precious little ones living at the orphanage.  Would you like to be a sponsor for one of these children?

To sponsor a child and/or learn more about this opportunity, go to:

Whether you are able to sponsor a child at this time or not, please pray for these children and for the staff who care for them!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dry Season

It is hot and dry here.  Perhaps I wouldn't refer to it as hot if I was a "native."  I think it has only been 90 degrees or so.  We had some rain earlier this month and I was astonished!  During our first year of living in Southern California, it rained in April and didn't rain again until October.  I grew up in Oregon where it is easy to think in terms of seasons.  Winter is cold and wet, spring is mostly cool and wet, summer is warm and somewhat dry, fall is cold and wet and windy.  I didn't cope well with the constant rain and gloomy skies (the main reason we moved).

The seasons here are more along the lines of spring with some rain but lots of sun, a long and very dry summer, and a cool sometimes rainy fall but mixed with warm and sunny days.  There is no winter.  I don't miss winter!  I have found that I am comfortable and happy if the temperature is between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  I like it when it rains a few days each month, especially if that rain comes at night.  All this to say, I've gotten quite picky about my weather.  It bothers me that I will be too hot for the next 3 or 4 months and that my lawn will be dry and brown.

Some perspective is in order as I contemplate my current "dry season."  Check out this blog post that my sister-in-law Holly wrote last year during dry season in Congo:

I may be hot, and my yard may be dry due to the cost of water... 

but I have safe water to drink, I have water for showers, water to wash dishes and clothes, water for my garden, and even water to fill up a little plastic pool for my kids.  I don't have to send my kids out to fetch water and worry about their safety while I am at work trying to make enough to feed my family.  We don't stand in line waiting for our turn at a community faucet.  In fact, there are about 8 different water faucets just in my house and yard.  I wish I could share this access to water, especially safe drinking water, with my neighbors across the ocean.

For now, I will work on maintaining a joyful and thankful attitude.  I know I can share that with others!

Friday, June 17, 2011


I grew up eating pancakes and waffles made from a mix, the sort where you just add water or just add milk and eggs.  For a long time, that is what I used in my own home.  That is, until I read the ingredients list on the mixes and also started thinking about how simple, affordable, and how much healthier it would be to make my own.  For a while I made pancakes using a basic recipe from The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  Then I started to experiment and find ways to make that much healthier for my family.  I have adjusted the recipe quite a bit and found a combination of ingredients that tastes great!

Shauna's Pancake Recipe

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or use 1 cup and omit the white flour)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
 Mix these dry ingredients together.

1 cup milk
1 beaten egg
1/4 cup of applesauce (no sugar added)
Mix these wet ingredients together, then combine and stir the wet and dry mixtures.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and melt a tiny bit of butter in it.  Drop spoonfuls of batter onto the hot pan, turn them when you begin to see the first tiny bubbles of air coming up and/or edges look slightly dry.

And that is it!  Sometimes I add a mashed banana and/or blueberries to them.  They are sweet and flavorful enough from the whole wheat flour, flax seed, and applesauce (and other fruit) that I eat mine without adding any syrup, etc.   Leftovers are good if you warm them up in the oven or toaster oven.

There is a fun book written and illustrated by Eric Carle that would be perfect reading material if you make and/or eat these pancakes with your kids.  The book is titled "Pancakes, Pancakes!"

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Lately my kids have been joining me for all or part of our church worship service.  Typically they have gone to their separate Sunday School classes.  I love having them with me in church!  I really enjoy worshiping God with my children, at home throughout the week and on Sundays at church.  It is a wonderful way for them to watch and learn as I, and the other adults around them, worship God.  I find that our hearts bond together even more through our time in church together.

It is challenging for them to sit still and be quiet, and it is more challenging for me to focus when they are there.  With practice, however, we are all getting better at it.  The results are certainly worth the effort.  I love how even my 3 year old (a very active and talkative boy) listens to the pastor and asks me questions about the sermon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Everything is growing!

Our garden!  We have planted tomatoes, corn, peas, beans, beets, carrots, spaghetti squash, zucchini, cucumbers, parsnips, spinach, lettuce, sunflowers, and strawberries.  I might be forgetting something.  Almost everything is sprouting!  We still need to plant our watermelon and pumpkin seeds.
One of the little gophers that has been digging up our yard and trying to gobble up all our hard work!

The chicken coop.  Now we just need to paint it and put shingles on the roof.
The chickens sure have grown!  This picture is from about a month ago, so they are even bigger now.  Anna and Arik like to give the chickens lots of hugs.  The chickens aren't real thrilled about the affection.  Corn Cob, the Rhode Island Red, is by far the most friendly of the 4 chickens.

Anna and Arik are growing quickly too!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A jumble of thoughts

1.  About a year ago, I made myself a chore chart.  My goal was to complete one or two scheduled household chores each day for each two week period.  There are 52 weeks in a year.  That makes 26 chances I have had to complete all the chores on my list.  Not once have I actually succeeded in doing every chore on my list.  Perhaps I need to come to terms with the fact that my house will always be dirtier than I wish it was.  The chore I most often avoid?  Dusting.

2.  I've really been struggling lately with feelings of discouragement and a lack of energy.  It is reminding me of the depression and anxiety I have so often experienced.  But I don't want to call it that!  I don't want to go down that road again.  Life is good.  I live with a very strange mix of pure joy and nearly overwhelming discouragement.  Working in the garden and hiking with my family are my most effective forms of "therapy."

3.  Teaching my kids at home is something I never thought I would do.  I feel like homeschooling found me, and I am so glad it did!  I am extremely blessed to have this time with my kids.  Yes, there are days when I am tired and wouldn't mind a small break, but I wouldn't trade this opportunity for anything (not even hundreds of quiet days to myself).

4.  The Bible is the most amazing book!  Even after reading through it multiple times, I am constantly surprised and encouraged by the new things I find.

5.  I lived alone for a while in my early twenties.  One weekend I realized that I had been home by myself for three days and did not feel even remotely lonely or bored.  I hadn't talked to anyone, seen anyone, hadn't even watched TV or listened to the radio.  I think I can safely call myself an introvert.  The most challenging part of parenting for me has been the fact that I am never alone!

6.  The gophers and squirrels in my yard are taunting me.  I think they know I don't have the heart to harm them.  They poke their little heads out of the dirt and watch me as I work in the garden.  Maybe they are cheering me on.  "Way to go!  Keep working!  We will really enjoy eating all these great vegetables you are planting!"

That's all for now.  Maybe someday soon I will have some more coherent thoughts!