Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Clutter, clutter go away... or not

I have a love-hate relationship with stuff.

Awhile back we took our old basement couch to the dump, but I kept the cushions because they also fit the love seat.  Great!  Spares in case the love seat’s get stained or damaged!  In the meantime, they are taking up room and getting played with and generally getting in the way in the basement.  Not so great.

The same thing happens with worn out clothes (could be used for kids’ costumes or fabric), outgrown clothes (you never know when we’ll have younger ones in the house again), kitchen items I never use (but someday I might!), and random art and craft supplies that make me feel like someday I might be better at doing art class with the boys.  

See what I mean?  I want to hang on to stuff that has so much potential, but I really don’t want it taking up space and making our home feel cluttery.

And Wade is no better.  Not recognizing the full potential of his clutter, I’m often tempted to just toss gobs of it and hope he’ll never notice.  Once in awhile I do, but the ancient original Mac still sits on our bedroom floor, taunting me with its worthlessness every time I walk by it.  I'm certain he'd notice if I tossed that!

And just when I feel motived to purge the house of anything and everything that hasn't been used or admired in the last year (or five), something comes in handy and I’m justified in having held on to it for so long.  

Today was a strong de-clutter day for me.  With a hint of eternal perspective encouraging me to let go of what’s not really valuable, I filled four bags with trash and one big box for the Clothes Closet, a local second hand store.  Over and over I asked myself, “Do I need it?  Do I want it?”  I’ve come to realize that when the mood to declutter strikes, it’s best to take full advantage of it.  If it’s still going strong tomorrow, I’ve got a couple particular areas in mind to purge.  

And you know, it feels really good, and it looks really good.  Why do I not just live unclutteredly all the time?  I know, I know, it’s because those old broken window frames will someday make the most adorable picture frames, there may come a day when the entire family needs a thermos full of hot chocolate, and you just never know when there will be a girl in the house who will love reading my old Nancy Drew books.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pages from the Past

Wade took notes for the minutes at our congregational meeting Sunday after church.  Since his writing is rather cryptic, especially when done quickly, he jotted them on notepaper with the intent to copy them more neatly into the official congregational meeting minute book later.  And thus we were sent home with a very tattered book containing our church’s congregational meeting minutes.
It wasn’t until Sunday evening, though, that we took a close look at the old book with it’s blank peeling cover, frayed binding, yellowed pages and wonderful library smell.

The first inside page says “Congregational Minutes of Holland Center Christian Reformed Church.” On the next, in neat scrawl, is written, “Notulen van de Gemeente vergaderings der chris. Ger. heuk van Holland Center.”

The first entry was made on Nov. 23, 1913 — almost 100 years ago exactly! — and is written entirely in Dutch.  The only things Wade and I could decipher were numbers, a dollar sign, and last names (some still present in our congregation): Stuit, Huiner, LeFebre, Beld, Kok.
The entries continue in Dutch for nearly 30 years until the meeting of Nov. 27, 1941.  I was intrigued by the proposals of the consistory on the following page, one year later:

1 The consistory feels that the introduction of individual communion cups is neither feasible nor necessary for the congregation at this time.
2 The consistory favors the incorporation of this church under the laws of the state of South Dakota.
3 The consistory moves that divine services be conducted only in the English language.

The pen and handwriting change every few pages as clerks were appointed, finished their terms, and were re-appointed in later years.  In small congregations, the list of eligible elders and deacons is limited, and each man only gets a few years off between duties.

In the 1950s we begin seeing names of men still in our congregation — and still serving it until fewer than five years ago.  By the 1970s, most of the names listed are familiar — they or their families still attend or there is a table, appliance or piano with a memorial plaque bearing their name.

On Nov. 23, 2008, Wade’s name appears, written in black ink on the yellow page: “Elder and deacon election results: Rod LeFebre - elder, Wade Howard - deacon.”  And today Wade will enter the minutes of the Nov. 23, 2013 congregational meeting.  We have become a part of a long history of blessing, trial, community and faith.

Those yellow pages, held together by frail binding and tattered cover, are a record of motions made and passed, elections of elders and deacons, minutes read and approved — rather dry reading, really.  But it’s a history, a record of people involved in their church, willingly doing God’s will, serving the families around them, living their faith.  And I can’t help but feel a surge of pride at seeing my husband’s name and penmanship alongside those of so many Godly leaders past.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Reading After All

Recently I was bemoaning that I don’t read much during the school year.  I haven’t checked a book out of the library since August.  My “To read” list keeps getting longer and rarely does anything get crossed off of it.  Even the sweet stack of books my sister lent me this summer has barely dwindled.  How could I let reading fall off my radar?

And then it struck me that I read two hours every day while teaching my boys, and while it may not be anything from my “I’d like to read someday list,” and a lot of it would be found in the juvenile section at the library, I’ve actually read a lot of really enjoyable books in a variety of genres in the past few months.

Here are a few of the most enjoyable ones that I would fondly recommend to middle school readers, or parents reading aloud to middle schoolers, or to adults who aren’t put off by literature that is about children or geared toward their reading levels.

The Great Wheel by Robert Lawson — The cover says this book is geared for ages 10 to 14, but I completely enjoyed this (slightly romantic) tale of a lad fulfilling his destiny through his work on “Ferris’ Folly” —the original Ferris wheel constructed for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat — A true story about the author’s childhood and his atypical pets and their scrapes, scuffles and adventures, ‘Lij and I both enjoyed this story I read aloud to him.  I may make this "required reading" for the other three later in the school year too -- I think they'd love it!

Little Britches by Ralph Moody — Subtitled “Father and I Were Ranchers,” this memoir about the author’s childhood is definitely not just for children (in fact, some of the language that the neighbors use warrants either an omission or a discussion on not always following the crowd).  We’re about two thirds of the way through and enjoying every humorous, touching and adventure-filled chapter as Ralph learns what it means to be a rancher and a man.

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink — This reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories, only with more mischief and shenanigans.  It was based on stories from the author’s grandmother’s childhood.

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney — This one was fun and a little bit silly.  When a boy with a severe case of wanderlust is challenged by his dad to find seven “wonders” in his own hometown in order to earn a trip to his distant uncle and aunt’s, he and his companions discover history, mystery and lore almost under their noses.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


I imported pictures today and was inspired to share these.

A day's worth of tomato pickings in a variety of colors and sizes.  Those are lemon boy, pineapple, yellow pear, roma and black cherry -- yummy!

 I fooled loosely with catching a storm and got this lightening shot.  I think the coolest part is how incredibly dark those clouds are as they roll across the county!
 Aww, my handsome man and two of our fun-lovin' progeny.  They make me swoon.
 This little creeper was creeping across my counter.  He was itty bitty.  He's on a piece of paper here, and I'm zoomed in so much you can see the paper grain.  Now he's outside.
 Speaking of bugs in the house, I woke up one morning and found a butterfly in the kitchen.  Hours later I found this empty chrysalis on a tomato I picked the day before.  Mystery solved!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


cooler mornings
a quickly filling pantry
golden sunshine
cozy socks
school assignments on the counter
flecks of gold overhead and underfoot
a cup of spiced tea
noisy geese
soft sweaters
a hint of smoke in the air
summer blowing a farewell kiss

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Not Afraid

I am not paranoid, anxious, fretful or a worry-wort.  But when I think about something dire happening to my husband, it gets hard to breathe.

So when he was admitted to the local hospital last week, and then ambulanced to a larger one 150 miles away, I would have expected some panic to set in.

But I was not afraid.

When his fever raged, his vision doubled and he vomited every time he moved his head, I would have thought I'd have fallen to pieces.

But I was not afraid.

When the dreaded words "West Nile" and "meningitis" were spoken, I would have expected fear to rope my mind and drag it around like a lassoed calf.

But I was not afraid.

I was concerned.  I prayed with a frequency and fervor unlike any conversation I've had with God before.  But it wasn't a prayer of panic or desperation.  God's hand of calm was on my heart throughout this ordeal, and the words of Psalm 23 were true in a way I've never known before.

"Though my husband walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I feared no evil, for You were with me.  Your rod and your staff comforted me… My cup overflows."

Hundreds of people were praying for Wade's protection and recovery, and God heard and answered those prayers in an amazing way.  Yesterday, less than a week after being released from the hospital, he worked almost a full 8-hour day without becoming over-tired.

But I suspect that someone, maybe some-many, were also praying for me, and God also answered those prayers in an amazing way.

I was not afraid.

Praise God!

Friday, August 30, 2013

This week...

I got up by 7 a.m. every day, and several days was up before the alarm went off (this was totally God's doing, as my own wakingpower and willpower in the morning are nil).

We logged the required number of hours each school day with a comfortable accumulation of minutes to spare.

I had the boys take notes every day during history, and on Friday instead of reading another chapter, we had a review and remember day… and they remembered (and understood) what we had read!

And then to really drive things home, Friday's English writing assignment was tied to what we had read and reviewed in history.

I'm feeling pretty good about this week.  I like to hope they'll all be this successful, but I admit I'm definitely on a new school year high (organized, inspired and energized), and my gumption is not likely to maintain this kind of elevation clear through May. 

But we'll take it one week at a time, praying as we go.

And next week is a four-day school week, so it's off to a good start already.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


School starts this week.

I'm okay with that.

I've been praying quite a bit about it.

I want more than an education for my kids.

I want them to gain not just information, but understanding.

Not just facts, but truth.

Not just knowledge, but wisdom.

I want them to learn not just how to think, but to discern.

And those things go deeper than the brain.  They go to the heart.

And those things are more than I can teach.  But Jesus can.

And so I've been trying (struggling?) to give this school year to God.  To let Him direct it.  To let Him inspire it.  To give Him full control over it and trust Him to teach us what we need to both pass the standardized tests and live holy lives.

I know that learning truth, understanding, wisdom and discernment aren't just for "school" time.  They're life-long challenges.  But as long as we're really focusing on and dedicating time to learning, why not aspire to learn with our hearts as well as our heads?

School starts this week.

I'm okay with that.

I've been praying quite a bit about it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Canning Confession

The late summer canning season is upon us.  Beans and cucumbers are growing with gusto and my pantry shelves are filling rapidly.  It's great.  But -- and here's where my nerdiness comes shining through -- as much as I enjoy seeing the shelves fill, what really excites me is adding another year to my canning jar lids.  It's almost as much fun as hearing the pop of a jar sealing.

I know, the instructions say not to reuse 'em, but my grandma did, my mom does, and I do too, and we all have great sealing success.  And every time I do I write the year on top in permanent marker.  The majority of my lids have at least three years penned on them.  My mom has one with ten years marked on it!

Today I was cleaning my canning jar lid drawer (yes, there is a designated drawer in the kitchen), tossing out rusty rings and weeding out lids with damaged edges or rust spots.  And I cringed every time I had to toss one with more than three years on it.  One even had five -- it was half way to fame!  "Man, there goes a fun one!" I thought.

Today I got to add "13" to ten more lids (it was beans today).  One lid graduated to its fifth year; several received their first markings.  But I'm optimistic that with careful opening, they'll be around to rack up many more pen marks.

Happy canning to all you garden-happy people out there!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Yard Walk

Mom DW, today I took a yard walk with my camera and pretended you were there too.  The conversation was rather one-sided, but the weather was lovely and we had a delightful time.

Would you care to step outside?

Here is my deck tomato.  It's a yellow pear.

And my blueberries!  Look how loaded the little bushes are -- yea!

I was so excited that these black-eyed Susan vines actually started blooming.  I started them from seed, and I haven't had a lot of luck starting my own flowers.  So this makes me happy.

My little alakazam or abracadabra or hokus pokus rose is loaded!  For such a bitty bush it's putting on a pretty impressive display!  And the bees knees behind it finally decided to open (I was beginning to wonder).

The woodvine on the fence has really taken off this spring, er, summer.  Oh, careful not to trip over the lifejackets.  We took the kayaks and peddle boat out on Mirror Lake last night and everything came back wet.

Oh, peek behind the picnic table a sec -- that's the new clematis that I thought was dead when it arrived in the mail.  It's not!

Alas, we're down to one surviving pumpkin plant.  Hope nothing tragic happens to it or we'll have to buy pumpkins this fall!

Luke's cucumber plants are doing nicely though.

In fact this whole row of vining things is doing alright.  Besides Luke's cukes, we've got gourds and luffa. (You know those long, tubular body scrubby things you can use in the shower?  They're the core of luffa fruit/squash/gourd thingies.  We're going for homemade this year.)

And Isaac's peas are climbing nicely.

The arbor is looking quite lush this year!

Another potted tomato plant...

And the hosta bed...

And a better view of the hosta bed from under the arbor.  And it's hard to see here because it's in the shade, but...

... there's a cute little bleeding heart back there.  It got reduced to absolutely nothing in the hail storm last month, but it's made a delightful come back.

And the garden.  Ugh, don't look too closely, there are more weeds than veggies in there right now.

The view from the other end.

And this cute little volunteer is loving its spot near the drippy water spigot.  Sigh.  Isn't it sweet?

The tomatoes are looking awesome!  And those four little ones in front?  Volunteers I didn't have the heart to pull.  I know, they're way too close together to stay there, but, well, for now they're gonna.

And the strawberries.  Pretty small, but bearing nicely -- much better than they did last year.

This bed is getting so lush!  Love it!  Let's take a closer look.

Okay, we've got the wiegelia (how do you spell that?) with a columbine tucked in on the side and baby's breath coming up behind it.

A little farther down the blanket flowers are beginning to bloom.

And more columbine.

And this lovely riot of pinkness.

They're a little past their prime, but still pack such a bright punch of color.

You wouldn't think it to look at these sweet, simple roses, but they are incredibly fragrant.  Not quite as aromatic as double delight, but wonderfully potent nonetheless.

And just beyond them is my salad garden.  The radishes popped up right away, but the lettuce and spinach took a little longer, and the carrots aren't doing real great -- only a dozen or so have come up yet and it's been weeks.  Maybe it's too shady?

This corner bed is slowly filling in more and more.  This year I planted several tomato plants in there since there was room, and the more plants that take up space, the fewer weeds come through.

However, as you can see, the little toms aren't doing much to shade out those weeds yet.  Yikes!

This is a, hmm, coreopsis?  It's new this year, and sheesh, this bed needs weeding too!  I've got a lot of work to do before vacation or I'm gonna come home to a jungle!

The wildflower mix I scattered in this bed several years ago never fails to delight me.  This time of year it's mostly sweet William.

And I don't know what these little blue guys are, but they're only open in the morning and are one of my favorites.

This corner isn't real colorful right now.  The lilac in the center was beautiful a few weeks ago, as were the irises, and the lilies will be in another week or two.

Oh, but here on the other side of the lilac is some nice color.  Just have to step out on the sidewalk to be able to see it.

The poor little annuals around the mailbox were planted just before the hail storm.  They survived, but they're still looking a little rough.

Lijah's precious little forget-me-not that he was so taken with at the greenhouse that he had to walk all the way home to get some money and walk all the back to buy, thankfully survived.

This bed isn't doing much in the way of color yet, but the Russian sage, coneflowers and milkweed look like they're gonna go gangbusters later this summer.

Oh, there's a little color -- the potentilla is showing some yellow.  I think it needs some pruning.  It has a lot of bare branches this year.  Tell me why we still have a seat-less Hot Wheels trike in the driveway? Our baby is almost 8.  Hopeful thinking, I guess.

Okay, that tall blooming thing that resembles a yucca?  It's a um, volunteer (I can't call it a weed since I deliberately left it to grow there).  This is the first time it's bloomed, and I hope it doesn't scatter seed that tries to take over the flower bed.  I'm a little wary about unidentified "volunteers," so I'm keeping a close eye on it.

This is one of the hanging baskets the boys got for me for Mother's Day.  It took the hail hard too, but carries on.

Now, no laughing.  I know this is no VanWingerden's product, but this is the fuchsia the boys got me for Mother's Day.  It took the hail even harder.  It was mere twigs afterward.

But look at all the buds it has!

And we're back around to the deck.  Gotta remind those boys about not leaving bikes on the walking path... again!

Nope, those aren't weeds, I've got pepper plants growing in there with the blueberries and dahlias.  Now what is a rubber snubber doing in my flower bed?  Seriously, do I live with boys?

That's better.

And that little rose again.  I just can't get over how many blossoms it has for only being ten inches tall!

And my happy deck -- such a sunny, smily place to be.

Okay, except for these guys.  I planted 20 freesia bulbs in here and only three have come up, and it's been weeks.  I think they got a little dry in the package before planting.  

So there we are.  I think I need a glass of iced tea now.  How about you?