Thursday, July 24, 2008

How Does My Garden Grow?

Wonderfully, for having started it way late! A wonderful friend of mine passed a bunch of heirloom seeds off to me because she had a possible buyer for her house and didn't want to start a garden only to have to leave it. Of course, as things usually go, the buyer fell through and she is now staying in her gardenless house, although I have given her first dibs on all of my extra harvest! I am way behind, having planted a month or more late, but I'm getting my first small harvests, and it's exciting! I am super-duper proud of this garden for two reasons. One is that I am giving my family wonderful, fresh, organic produce straight from the ground it is grown in. You can't get much better than that. The second reason is that I just decided to grab the bull by the horns and do it, and I have done it successfully and kept it up very well. Adam was reluctant and doubtful about it, but I think I have really kept up to my end of the bargain. I put a lot of work into it, and made sure he didn't have to weed-eat around it, and it is all mine. There have been a couple of times that he willingly volunteered some help when he was out there with me, but I have really worked hard at making this garden something to be proud of.

Here is Bella holding our first Costata zucchini squash!

Here is a baby Costata that will be ready in a day or two !

Our pea plants didn't do well enough to produce an entire meal at once, but Bella just loves to pick a few when we're in the garden and shell them to eat her 6 peas!

Our butternut squash and lemon squash are, of course, taking over the entire garden. I love going down there and seeing how much they have growing and having to redirect their course each time they try to consume my carrots or beans. And I love this picture, because Bella uses her feet (and always has since babyhood) as a gorilla does, so she is pointing at and moving the flower with her foot.

I just adore the color of a butternut squash flower. A good friend told me once she could have a garden just for the beautiful flowers, never mind the wonderful harvest of fruits and veggies you get! I have to agree.

And I love getting to teach the kids the difference between the male and femal flowers. A garden is a wonderful teaching tool, from learning about basic botony, to worms, compost, and bugs, the kids have a living field experiment that we get to explore every day.

I also love the difference between the whopping butternut flowers with their deep schoolbus yellow and these dainty, sunny lemon squash flowers.

The kids even get to learn all about pests, like the beautiful eggs here that will turn into nasty squash bugs. The problem is that I just love bugs, so it's always hard for me to have to get rid of the pesty ones. But the thought of losing my Costata plant to a few measly bugs gives me the strength to do what I must.

And speaking of colors, check out the blooms on my scarlet runner beans. I love that they so perfectly match the orange construction caution fence that keeps my garden from being deer/bunny/woodchuck food.

You simply cannot be in the garden looking at these flowers and feel grouchy!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Photo Shoot

For those who don't know, I finally (about 4 months ago) purchased my first digital camera. I know, I know, WAY behind the times. But I loved my Canon Rebel Ti film SLR, and I wasn't willing to part with it until I could UPGRADE. So many thought I was crazy for saying I wouldn't get a digital until I could get at least an 8 mega pixel. But I am serious about my photography, and wouldn't settle for anything that would give me a lesser-quality print than my film SLR. So I saved change, and babysitting money, and used a little tax refund, and got myself the camera that I have always wanted. My Canon Digital Rebel XTi is all I've ever wanted in a camera. The only thing it is lacking is that $5,000 lens that I dream about at night that would allow me to take those professional wildlife pictures :-). One day. One day...

Lately I have been diligently studying the Blue Crane DVD that came with my camera package and learning all those things that I always wanted to know about my other camera, but never took the time or the money in film wasted on bad pictures to find out. Oh, how I am loving this new phase of my photographic life! Today, while I had all 4 kids asleep for awhile at the same time (my three and Baylee, my babysittee), I sat and took detailed notes while watching the DVD. I also spent some time when they first went to sleep and just before snapping some photos with my new found knowledge of White Balance adjustment and ISO speed. Then after played with the TV and AV modes, adjusting the aperture and shutter speed. Ooh, so much fun. I have also been adjusting to setting the focal points manually and playing with angles and lighting... I thought I would share some of the photos that I took.

I just couldn't pass up Bella and the colors she had on today. Of course, we color coordinated with Pinkish the Cast, but the crisp white with the bright embroidery on the shirt, matched with the barrettes and the colors of the Calendula in our front flower bed were dreamy.

Then there was Maxwell - the color of his skin in the warm light coming through the kitchen window, perfectly highlighted by the honey maple floor and cabinets. Had to get some of that, too.

And of course, my Kaney, fast asleep in my bed, snuggled up close with Bear. Bear is pretty special. He looks nothing like he did when he was new :-), which makes him perfect. I just happen to have a bear with the same ring worn around his neck as Kane's bear has, from an arm being thrown over him night upon sleepy night for my entire childhood. Okay, I admit it, into adulthood...

I love this one, especially, because since he was little, I've always called his big ol' meaty feet and hands bear paws...

And of course, my Bella had to sleep, too. I like how Pinkish seems disconnected from her in this second picture, as if it's just something lying there beside her in bed, not the large, unmovable force that has taken over her arm. Speaking of, we went to the hospital again today to have a follow-up and with everything looking just fine, we go back in two weeks to have Pinkish the Cast removed. YEAH! I am grateful for the healing that her body is doing inside this thing, but will be so happy when we can get back to swimming and bathing normally!! August 6th, we patiently await thee...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ode to Grandfathers

I cannot say enough about grandfathers. They are the embodiment of unconditional love. It seeps through their pores and surrounds them like a glowing aura that grandchildren can feel in their core, and a camera can capture with a snap of a shutter. It is attached permanently to their souls, stitched on with a thread woven of their years of commitment to raising their children with an utmost care and solid determination. Their love is felt on a different plane than a father's love, because it is born not only of the God-given grace of grandchildren, but also of the pride of a daughter or son turned into a mother or a father. For them it is a love unlike any they have ever experienced before, and they cannot put into words how far it reaches. They may try - "I love you more than all the rain drops that fall from the sky" - but this truly does not touch its expanse.

A grandmother's love is no less, by any means, only expected - at least from a mother's point of view - because of the common bond of carrying and birthing a child. No less, just more maternal, instinctual, primal, and therefore taken advantage of. The love of a grandfather is unwavering, all-giving, and unexplainable, even by the greatest poets, to anyone who has never been blessed enough to be a grandfather himself. I, as a mother, cannot feel it, nor begin to grasp it in my soul as they do. One day I will hopefully know what it is to be a grandmother, but I will never see through my own eyes what it is to be a grandfather. I can only see it through the lens of my camera; in the glint in their eyes, the radiance of their smile, and the warmth of their heart as they gaze at their grandchildren. I am blessed by them and the love that they give, and I thank God that they grace the lives of my children.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sleeping Beauty

I had to take a quick moment to share some pictures of my sleeping beauty. Everyone here was feeling sub-par today. Kane is a bit of a sleep fighter, so with Max at the end of a cold and not sleeping well, and Bella fevered and needing extra attention, he didn't get the time he needed from me to fall asleep. So by 3:30 the poor guy just couldn't hold on any longer, and this is how I found him. I spent 10 minutes or so taking pictures, experimenting with my new-found knowledge of my camera functions (I'm finally studying up on the DVD tutorial that came with it), trying to get just the right shot. I finally got that shot, after messing with the white balance and changing the focal points, but I'm not including it here. The reason? I was standing on our TV stand, hanging over the TV taking some beautiful close-up shots when I noticed that he must have been messing with markers or somehow still have some blueberries from breakfast on his fingers. Strange... Then I picked him up to lay him down on the couch, and four lovely-colored violet fingers quickly turned back to pink, living flesh. Now, after all that work to get the right shot, all I see is a big ol', purple, circulation-deprived finger. It's just kind of gross, to be honest, and I wonder how in the world he slept through them turning that numb and then waking back up. Takes me back to my childhood days when I got a rubberband stuck around my finger and was afraid to tell Mom about it. That purple color and the pain eventually got me over my fear....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The cast is on!

Today was the big day, and now Bella has a real cast on her arm. I'll give you just one guess as to what color she picked! She is much more mobile in this cast, even though it is heavy. When we first were leaving, she wanted the sling back on because her arm was hurting after having to move it some to get it set for the cast. But by this evening, playing with some friends, she was running all over the place with no sling, just cast. This giant, neon-pink invader of our household... I'll have to get her to name it tomorrow so I don't feel so resentful towards it! She does have several signatures on it already, so that makes it a little friendlier...

Those who know Bella know that she does not have a shy bone in her body. I really don't think the girl has ever been nervous about anything in her life so far. So, at the age of 4 3/4, she was completely side-swiped by the nerves that hit her today with this casting. Of course, when she fell and we had to go to the hospital, she was nervous, but the shock from the injury overpowered any nervousness. Today she was hungry, but kept telling me her stomach was really hurting, and by the time we got home she was really shaky. But my Mom was here for it, and all it took was sitting on Nanny's lap for about 10 minutes to clear it all up. I kept telling her that what she was feeling was because she was nervous and that it would go away, but I'm not sure she believed me until it did. Then she jumped up and said, "Mama, I feel a lot better! I think I settled down! I can eat now!"

She did such a great job at the hospital. Of course, she talked the RN's ear off, and because of that we found out that she grew up with one of our dear, wonderful friends. So that gave us all
something to talk about. And when she was all done, Lauren, the RN, gave her some of her very own, all-natural trail mix for a treat (Bella was asking for a treat, but couldn't have the nasty junk suckers that they had to give out). For those who don't know, along with food allergies that limit what she can eat, I keep them away from most artificial things as much as I can.
My favorite saying - "You are what you eat. Don't be artificial."

That aside, I have a baby boy who just woke up hungry, so I'll cut this a little short...

Monday, July 14, 2008

My New Obsession...

Mowing our spacious yard! Those who know me well know that I live for meshing with nature. From carrying the wayward spider out of my house and into my plants outside, to crouching with the kids on a nature hike helping them put to memory the field marks of the snake on our path so they can look up the species when we return home. The only way, normally, that I stop to control nature is when I spy a turtle or snake on the road. Then comes the screeching of the brakes followed by me pointing at oncoming traffic like a mad-woman, mouthing "Watch the turtle/snake!!!", and either showing the kids the turtle before releasing it on the side of the road it was heading for, or showing them how easy it is to use a forked stick to move the sun-bathing slither-er before it comes to an unacceptable fate. I carefully step over bees in the yard, strive to never step on a plant when out looking at wildflowers in the springtime, and would never kill a bug unless it would possibly harm me or my children. "Conquering" nature is just something that doesn't fit into MY nature. Typically.

For years Adam and I have had an agreement - I don't do lawns, he doesn't do dishes. I'm pretty sure I got the raw end of that deal (how many months out of the year do you have to mow a lawn?), but it has made us both happy. During the last 5 weeks of Adam being gone for business every day but Sunday, his end of that deal got dropped. Of course, I completely agreed with him when he stated that, on the one day he was home, he was NOT going to spend 2 hours mowing the lawn. He said I should just find someone to pay to mow our yard and forget about it. The problem with that is I am cheap, and I couldn't stand the thought of it. So when my Mom and Dad were down one day, I conquered my aversion and started up the lawn mower, something I haven't done since I was around 10. Mom was out of town and Daddy at work when my brother let me try after I bugged him enough. He stopped me after 2 crooked, half-missed rows. As an adult, I was expecting to bite the bullet and mow the lawn, just get it done and maybe it would be the last time I had to do it. What I wasn't expecting was how much I would LOVE every minute of it.

I just mowed for the second time last night, with my kids following behind with their play mowers like a little procession of grass-cutting goslings. I have found a new love, and it is, most surprisingly to me, in a nature-conquering work-horse kind of task. My love is born of the freedom of mind that comes with walking behind a deafening machine. I have a required 2 hours of time where my mind does nothing but think of the task at hand, or something completely random (like how to put my feelings all into words on a blog, or my favorite joke that I had forgotten about). I also get a required 2 hours of solid cardio-workout. My body gets to work hard, while the hardest my mind has to work is to decide which triangle to cut off and when as I strive for all 90 degree angles, or when to cut off a small rectangle of space to get to watch Kane more closely as he focuses on walking behind me step for step. And I love the little mowing-dance that we perform, where words cannot be used and we have to communicate innately. Although I love the conquering aspect (this is MY yard, and I'm going to OWN IT!) and the easily-seen progression of my hard work, I have to bring my normal meshing ways into the job to stop for the precious few honeybees to amble out of my way. Then I am done, all too soon for my liking, and my body is so jazzed that what I really want to do is take a run around the block to top it off. My mind is racing with things I want to write on this blog, and further concepts for articles and children's books that I have been working on developing. It is a beautiful thing, mowing the lawn; the balance of motion and stagnancy, of physical job and mental relaxation, of work and ease, that energizes the body and mind and spurs creativity. But then it is over and done, and the reality of everyday is looming, albeit a bit more tolerable. Back to the trenches to fight the good battle, with bedtimes for a tired boy and broken-armed girl, a snotty babe who won't sleep, an annoyingly-dead fish to bury, and loads of laundry and dishes with my name still on them. Goodbye, lawn mower. I will anxiously await our next meeting. It could never be too soon.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Princess Bella One-Arm

Oh, how I wanted to take the camera into the ER room with me (Room #15, Bella would tell you - just in case you were wondering). And oh, you should have seen the look on the nurse's face when I asked if I could. I am a mother in distress with a child in a traumatic situation, people - let me deal with it however I want! Alas, my camera sat useless at Judy's house while we trundled through our ordeal. And the x-ray pics that we brought home on a CD have a stinking copywrite on them. They think of everything... So I now have to take pictures of my little Princess Bella One-Arm, dressed in her fashionable princess attire given to her by Regan. Dear Regan, who decided Bella had had so much fun with Regan's own dress up clothes before she fell and broke her arm that she should have her own. First we have fake smile, then two in action pics of me being turned into a frog. Ribbit.

Bella was feeling much, much better today. She even came out this evening and "mowed" with Kane and I (them following behind me with their little mowers). Then she made another appearance just before bed when I was weeding the garden, and decided she needed to pick some salad greens and go have a salad. But not long after being asleep in bed, she awoke crying and I couldn't get her settled down. Assuming her arm was hurting, I kept trying to get her into comfortable possitions. Finally I starting asking her questions to break her out of her histerics. "Does your eye hurt? Does your toe hurt?" I was trying to get her to say that her arm was hurting so we could rationally deal with it. But when she just sobbed "NO-O" to every question I popped in a new one - "Did you have a nightmare?" Ah, finally I hit a nerve when she hesitated, took a deap breath and said "Yeah, I think so." Then with one more deap breath, she turned on her side and fell sound asleep. Apparently she needed to get that off of her chest. Now I have to wait patiently for morning to come to see if she remembers it. I wonder if she was dreaming of her fall, or of the hospital... It may just be one of her typical dreams, though, like my favorite latest, where the wild pack of teddy bears stole our bird seed and we had to chase them all the way to Florida and out onto an island in the ocean to get it back. If you think about what that would be like to a 4 yr. old brain, it really is quite scary. That aside, she is now sleeping quitely, lost in a world of dreams. I wonder, in her dreams, does she have a broken arm?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Down for the Count...

Yesterday we had a WONDERFUL morning. We went hiking with a friend Judy and her children Regan and Aidan in Vienna, WV at McDonough Wildlife Refuge. I am so thankful for that morning! We had a great hike, then headed back to Judy's house for lunch. The kids played, we ate a spectacular meal, and it all went downhill from there :-). Bella headed out to the kiddie pool while I was getting Kane's trunks on. Judy and I gathered our cookies and tea, and then I heard Bella yell out "Mama!!! Help me! Mama, somethings wrong!" over and over. When I got to her I thought she was holding her foot, and assumed she had been stung. When she stood up, though, she said, to my prying questions of what had happened, that something was wrong with her arm. As I'm sure you've guessed by now, the minute I looked at it I knew it was broken. My baby, my sweet baby Bella with a broken arm. The most heartbreaking part of the following 4 hours was when we got home and she was talking on the phone to another friend realizing what her limitations would be... "Um, Mama, I won't be able to go swimming, will I? And I won't be able to play on the swing set? But I can still jump on the trampoline, right? No? Can I still play in the sandbox?" And by now the tears were welling up for both of us. And that night, with her safely tucked in bed, her casted arm propped up over her little tummy, I finally allowed myself to break down and cry sobbing cries. I tried to explain to Adam that I wasn't just crying for the pain that she's going through with her arm broken. Yes, it will heal and she will be just fine. I was crying for all the other pain that she will inevitably go through, and all the times that she will get her heart broken. And I was crying for all of the other mothers who have ever had to see their child endure more pain than a broken arm, or who have had to survive through their child's death.... But, of course, the brain of a man can't quite grasp such silliness. So now I look at the pictures of Bella's last fun, summer-hiking, running-with-friends kind of day for quite awhile. As I'm sure every parent knows, I wish for all the world that I could take it all from her and carry it myself. But she is doing a stellar job of dealing so far. She is getting bored and a little sad, but I am so proud of how she is handling it, especially of how she did at the hospital. She is such a strong, smart, courageous little girl. After my sob-fest, Adam said something quite profound and deep - it is in these kind of times that we get to see that we are doing something right, when our children show a strength of character that we have implanted in them. And it is in this that our greatest love for them shows through. And I love her and am very thankful that we could spend such a wonderful day together with each other and with friends before we had to tackle this new challenge.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More Little Bella

Here are some more photos of my girl. I LOVE looking back on these photos. I haven't done so for a long time... If I close my eyes tight after looking at these pictures, I can almost feel what she felt like in my arms at that age. It brings tears to my eyes. Don't get me wrong, I still love to hold and kiss on my Bella Rose, but now that she is nearly 5, she is a bona fide young girl. She is all arms and legs, long, lanky and lean. And just remembering what her little baby body felt like all curled up on my lap after I would rock her to sleep, back in the days when she still had pudge left on her legs, is hearbreaking. As much as I love my big girl and appreciate the child that she is turning in to, I miss her babyness.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

My Passion...

Photography!!! It has become much more manageable, yet more uncontrollable, since I got my Canon Digital Rebel XTi. I am still ages away from knowing all that I can about the camera and what it can do for me, but I am LOVING being able to take 50 snaps of the kids jumping on the trampoline and pick just ONE to print!! That in and of itself has increased my abilities tenfold. Then when you add the Sigma 0-300 telephoto lense to the package, I am finally able to take some of the nature shots that I've always wanted to but couldn't. It's a wonderful feeling. So I thought I would share some of my favorite photos with you, from the time when my inspiration to further my interest was born (we named her Bella).

There are some wonderful baby pictures that I will share first. Bella has always been such a happy girl. She was a very easy baby. I was layed off of my job 2 weeks before she was born. Best thing that ever happened to me! I worked at a chemical plant and was on shift work. If fact, I was getting off of midnights, leaving at 7 am when they pulled me aside and told me I was the first to go with the sale of the plant to GE. It was a sad day in the fact that I was leaving a family of people that I adored - some of the best people that you could ever hope to work with. That still makes my heart ache to this day. But since then I've always said that you can't chose to give up a job that can support your family, but you can chose not to go find another one. I spent many days at home with my new baby girl setting up photo shoots and getting pics of my beautiful baby. Most of them were taken with the camera that was purchased using the money that people I had worked with had raised for us that first Christmas after the layoffs. As I said, wonderful people - words cannot say what they still all mean to me. These are some of the shots that I got of my little photogenic girl back then with my Canon Rebel Ti film camera. I think my favorite photo of all time is the one of Bella with the ant on her hand. It seems like it was just yesterday that me and my little girl were taking walks every day, playing in the yard under our trees out in the country where we lived, and just making that everlasting bond that gets us through everyday life. Now, in just 2 1/2 months, that baby of mine will be turning 5. She is reading just about every word that she comes to, developing a healthy attitude and independence, and asserting her dominant nature over her also dominant-natured little brother. She loves her baby brother best (because he can't dissagree with her yet!!), and she is a wonderful help to me every day. Next I will post some pictures of her at an older age...

Every time we went for a walk, which we did a lot, she had to have a flower - preferably a daisy - to hold. She never ate them, never tore them up, just held them...

And here's my girl with the ant on her hand. I love B & W!