Failings and Flapdoodles on a Monday

For starters, those of you who wonder how I ever find time to read should have seen me this morning when I was trying to quickly finish my book before facing the laundry and the 250 feet of peas in the garden. That is how it happens, my dear Rhonda, that an 800 page book eventually gets read.

Anyhow, I was feeling guilty as I scurried into the laundry room to sort out the hampers that Alex had carried down for me. As I turned the corner, I stubbed my toe horribly and yelped with irritation. A close inspection revealed a neatly constructed trip wire running from the edge of the dryer into the boys’ bedroom. Booby traps of all varieties are my little boy’s faulty idea of fun practical jokes lately. Maybe it was the sight of my bleeding, torn toenail, or just maybe it had something to do with the look on my face, but Gregory was instantly penitent. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, Mama.” Of course not, but if you ever do that again, son, you will face some very loud music. I stewed and simmered a bit while I was sorting laundry. Maybe I should start a new chapter of M.A.D.D. I thought. You know, Mothers Against Dumb Deeds or something like that.

We have been spending quite a bit of time weeding the various plots around here. There was more than a little grumbling going on, so we pretended that we would starve this coming winter if we didn’t raise a successful garden. It was a fun game for the children and perked them up as they discussed survival strategies. I thought how it is that we cannot really imagine such a plight. Mainly we garden because we enjoy fresh food. By the time we buy all our supplies and the endless array of mulches and sprays and stakes and fences to keep out the deer, I am doubtful that our food is cheaper. If our corn fails because of the wetness of the soil, we are confident that we can buy some. We are daily loaded with benefits and how quickly we forget!

All that to say that we put in our daily weeding hour this forenoon before I picked the peas. I dislike picking them when they are wet and clammy, but then it was hot and I got a horrendous crick in my back. I resolve every year that I will not do this again. There is no more labor intensive vegetable and the yields are discouraging for all that work. And then the next year I go and plant them again because I absolutely love homegrown peas. You don’t need to pity me. I know what I am asking for when I order the seeds. It is a yearly lapse into irrationality. 🙄

About half way through the picking, I noticed that my littlest girl was missing and decided I should check on her. It is always better if she stays very close to Mama, and normally she does this on her own, chattering and breathing my air in her desire to be right where I am. I stepped into the living room and yelped for the second time in the day. There was a quart of bright red cherries scattered across the carpet with very deliberate footprints stomping through them and out the door. …Deep breath. Stay calm and deal with this M.A.D.D.ness in a constructive way… We had a little session where she admitted freely that she knew she was being naughty. Then we picked up the cherries and cleaned the carpet and that was that. All in a day’s work.

I do wonder though, what I ever did that my children think up these crazy ways to “be creative and explore their world” as the child development books say. What weird impulse made my child paint an enormous black smiley on the outside basement wall? I mean, it wasn’t like he thought he could hide it. I have a cousin who sweetly says that her children never seemed to do these sorts of things and I wonder what is wrong with mine in those times. I think it must be the mixture of trace amounts of Indian blood with quite a lot of old Adam. If you never have M.A.D.D. moments with your children, just please don’t tell me so that I will still like you.

I do need to say that the day ended well with us sitting on the deck shelling peas and brainstorming scenarios in which Gregory invented labor saving pea shellers and weed pickers, etc. etc. I laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my cheeks and all was just fine. I like living in my own personal comic strip.


Island of the World

Last year I saw this book recommendation on Tis a Gift to Receive. I checked all the local libraries, but none seem to have heard of Michael O’Brien, so… I bought Island of the World for a Christmas present for myself. 🙂


I told you I have a book review that is the polar opposite of The Hunger Games, but I will also quickly tell you that this is not light reading or suitable for early teens. In fact, it is probably the heaviest book I have read in a long time, quite literally, since it has over 800 pages, but it is also heavy emotionally. I couldn’t shake the story, although I could only bear to read a few pages some days. I don’t want to spoil the story for you, so I will only give a brief sketch of  the events in the story that is actually set over the course of a lifetime.

The book is set in the Balkans with the main character being a boy, Josip Lasta, who is the son of a school teacher in a remote mountain village. The family, as well as the entire village, is rich in simple faith. Josip survives the horrifying purge of his village, stumbling in a grief-stricken daze to war-torn Sarajevo where his aunt lives. As he grows older, he is haunted by the cruelty and bloodshed all around him as the communists take over the country. Eventually there is the promise of a career as a mathematics professor, even though he has never joined the party. There is the love of a beautiful girl, a happy marriage, a child on the way, and then there is the awful concentration camp after he is reported to be a counter revolutionary. There is so much hatred, betrayal, and senseless destruction in Josip’s world.

As I read, my western sensibilities of fairness kept insisting that surely soon everything would get better and be happy. Surely Josip cannot live under these crushing evils. Doesn’t he deserve to be happy? As the book continues to track his lifelong journey of forgiveness and his relentless faith that “God always has the final word”, I became smaller and smaller in my own human reasoning. I marveled at the redemption that seeped out of the brokenness of his life in nearly forty years as a humble janitor, a displaced person, a refugee in the foreign land of America.

“Seldom have I encountered the few who are awake, who cast their gaze to the real foundations, which, as human beings should know, are above.” -Josip Lasta, as he approaches the end of his life.

This is not typical historical fiction. There is a thread of purity  woven throughout the very human struggles of a man living through the awfullest of times. I have wanted to write this review for a long time, but found myself floundering for words. When I was reading Hunger Games, I kept thinking of this book, another tale of revolution, war, heartbreak. The contrast between a soul impoverished with vindictiveness and a soul flourishing through forgiveness was so startling that I will never forget it.

You will not regret buying this one!


Wildflower Bouquets and Mint Tea


I don’t seem to post very much these days because I haven’t written anything other than grocery lists and the odd quick bits on Facebook. Some of this is due to the fact that we have bitten off an enormous project on our property, fencing a plot and preparing it for productivity. This included hosting a work night with a bunch of ambitious young friends who persevered with setting posts and stretching wire in drenching rain. It also entailed hauling a dump truck load of compost from the barnyard of our friend, the horse farmer, and spreading it all by hand. Gabriel has started four rows, each 25 feet long, of raspberries and blackberries. Next was a large plot of asparagus, which you may know, is quite a production. Asparagus has to be planted in rich soil, 18 inches deep, so we dug these massive trenches and made the rootlets comfy. They are coming up thin little pencils, very happy with their bed. Just last week we managed to get the rest of the garden planted, corn and squash and melons. It is nice to have all the space to plant stuff that we never had room for in my kitchen garden which is close to the house.

In this process, I hauled straw for mulching and a load of 5 scoops of mushroom mulch, which I personally unloaded by scoop shovel, thank-you-very-much. Since we replaced our mini van and our truck with the Suburban and a trailer, there was nothing for it but to learn to back a trailer if I don’t want to wait helplessly until Gabe has a day off work to do all the hauling that needs to be done. When I went for the straw, I chickened out and let the farm girl back the trailer into the barn. Then I came home and practiced for a while, down around the curves, backing into and out of the fenced garden. I didn’t hit anything, but I am not telling how many times I had to pull forward to straighten out a potential jackknife. Still, I am getting better! It is an empowering feeling, not unlike the time I finally pulled off a perfect parallel park for the first time. 🙂

We took two days to camp at the local State Park. With the weather so perfect, who can resist? I packed up the stuff and the kids while Gabe was at work… bikes and gear on the trailer once more. It was a little like trying to keep a clear head and not forget anything while surrounded by five very excited, very vocal crickets. We decided not to go the tent route this time. The cabin rentals were on a first-come-first-served basis and I was a bit nervous. What would I do with my happy load of people and stuff if we got there and there were no cabins available anymore? We got to the campground at lunchtime, fortunately found a nice secluded area where I had no observers while I backed that trailer into the trees. After I tucked the littlest crickets into bunks for their naps, I sat in a chair by the fire that the boys had built by using an inordinate amount of charcoal starter because we forgot paper. I just sat. And I thought about how last winter we fantasized about all the camping we want to do this summer. I looked up through the lacy caps of the trees and swatted mosquitoes and was happy. Gabe couldn’t get off work until nearly seven that night, but the cabin made it really easy to set up camp.

We had friends from church join us for the second day. Swimming, boating, fishing, biking, just wearing ourselves out in general, doing the cooking the hard way and all that. 🙂  Is it even fun? I ask myself that when I am clearing away the aftermath, washing smoky clothes endlessly, and dealing with all the over-tired grouchiness. All I have to do is ask the children, and yes, it is fun!


There was a 5K on our last day at the park, racing around the lake on the trail. One of Gabe’s friends from work lost a baby to SIDS and the run was to benefit SIDS research. The boys and I registered to walk, although we ran some of the way. Alex came in 2nd of all the walkers. Greg and I dragged along a bit more, coming in 21st and 22nd. There was a lot more competition among the runners. I can’t remember exactly what Gabe’s spot was, but it wasn’t too shabby considering that he hadn’t practiced much and there were a lot of thirty-somethings runners.

The next day was a picnic for the EMS personnel in the area and the day after that was our Rita-girlie’s 5th birthday. It crept up on me when I was otherwise occupied and I had not gotten a present or made the traditional special dress. I knew I would not have time to go shopping after our camping jaunt, but I did take a few hours to walk through a community yard sale. I found a lovely dress and new shoes for her and I prayed for something special yet, not having any idea what I was looking for. I am more prone to shop for birthday gifts on Amazon than at yard sales. Then I saw the vast collection of Boyd’s bears, all new and just the sort of thing that would delight Rita. I got her a lady bear with a velvet dress and a hooded cloak. She has named her Mrs. Teaberry and thanks us repeatedly for her beautiful present. 🙂 She wanted a flower cake and insisted on blue petals with a yellow middle. We didn’t eat it for over a day, so it darkened to a shocking blue and she just giggled with glee. Here she is with her special dress.


This was followed by three days with out-of-state cousins amidst picnics and cookouts and fishing and Old Bedford Village. Gabe had 40 hours of work in those three days… I have been just trying to keep breathing and doing laundry here, but the kids would say we have been really living!

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