Monday, December 29, 2014

Better Memories

I haven't posted since September.  I promised myself after we got all the kids back in school that I was going to rein in my tendency to overschedule and overextend myself.  Things have been so busy for....years.  Life continues to come at us full force and I have struggled with getting overwhelmed.  Some folks thrive on having full schedules and activity.  I am not one of those.  I have always enjoyed a good measure of solitary time.  I like having time to drink a cup of coffee in a cup that is not a travel mug.  I like watching my horses munch their hay, petting my dogs, and puttering in my garden.  I like keeping my house organized, fixing stuff instead of replacing it, and dropping handwritten notes to loved ones.  I like a slower life. 

I made some significant changes this year with the support of my husband and kids.  I said no to many things that I could have fit in my schedule, but knew would stress me out. I neglected this blog.   I did not host Thanksgiving as I have for my entire adult life.  I only spent 20 minutes at the mall shopping at Christmas -- everything else came by mail.  I didn't do Christmas cards.  I didn't bake every version of Christmas cookie that has become traditional in our home -- I picked three recipes and called it quits.  We missed church during the Advent in lieu of staying home as a family to rest. Instead of church we piled on the couch and watched The Nativity.  I felt no guilt...only peace and relief.  Christmas day was a change, too.  We did not allow any company until the afternoon.  Instead of an enormous formal dinner, we opted for ham and two sides on paper plates (gasp!).  Again, no guilty feeling.  Again only peace -- especially after I saw that everyone was content with the changes and that nobody went hungry.  It was a really great day!

I think sometimes we get the mindset that we have to do it all and do it all the time.  I'm taking a break from that mentality.  As a Christian I'm supposed to reflect Christ in my thoughts and actions.  A stressed out, exhausted mama rarely exhibits the love of Christ.  I have come to the realization that only God is capable of all things.  I am not. 

By stepping back a bit this fall and Christmas season I was able to enjoy it so much more.  The old adage that "less is more" really became a reality for me.  I was better able to prioritize, was more productive and intentional, didn't fret as much as in years past.  I felt better, laughed more, and looked forward to the holidays more this year than I can recall in recent years.  I have let a lot of stuff go.  I have come face to face with my humanity and all my limitations.  I'm okay with it.  Jesus loves me just as I am.  What's ironic is that by letting go of my own agenda there is more time for His.  Funny how that works. 

Christmas Highlights....


 
Our family picture in front of our not-so-Christmas tree.  After this photo we decided against this tree and went for another. We were too lazy pose again with the actual article, so this is it!
 
 
Adam after cutting our actual tree.  Looking just like his dad!
 

Why we have children.  Starting to earn some dividends from our offspring investment!
 

 
I found this on a gift bag from a few years ago.  Made me smile and tear up at the same time.  Some things change.  Some things are constant.  This note has elements of both.
 
 
It was fun waking up Christmas Eve to snow!  Not common in Oregon.  It lasted all morning.  A great backdrop for our holiday preparations.  It completed our festive mood.  Then...as quick as it showed up it was gone.  A great memory.....
 
 
We took a break mid week and did some horsin' around.  Sophie enjoyed a few minutes of rest with her buddy, Rosie.  

 
I can't tell you how much I love seeing this gal smile.  As a family we have faced some more hard news this year.  I admire my mother-in-law for her courage and grace.  She is one amazing lady.
 

 
 
It was good to see Tawny, Kami, Blaine, and Shayne.  With two out of state and everyone busy, it's rare for all of us to be together.  Grateful for the time we get!
 
 
My dad rocked the Santa costume this year!  He was made for this!  I can't think of anyone that is better suited to play this character.  My dad loves Christmas and has always delighted in the traditions and excitement of the day.  Thanks, Dad, for making our Christmas fun and blessing other kids with your energy and enthusiasm!
Santa would not be complete without his Missus.  Such a sweet elfin couple :)

 
The best part of Christmas was the following day.  Brian and I got to get away for the day -- courtesy of my sister-in-law, Deb.  She watched the girls so we could sneak away for some bird hunting and hiking.  It felt great to get outdoors and spend some time together....and burn off a few calories. 
 
 
On a sidenote, I need to thank my husband for giving me the ability to enjoy this holiday season.  It was truly his greatest gift to me.  Without his support and encouragement I would have likely stayed in my usual exhausted rut this season.  I am grateful for the changes.  I'm grateful for him.....
 
 
With love and gratitude.....


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Four Years


Marc Andrew Griffith
May 17, 1966-September 30, 2010


Well, it's been four years today that Marc passed away.  Four years.  Wow!  A lot can happen in four years.  A lot has happened.  The kids and I talked on the way to school this morning about where we were four years ago and where we are now.  We all agreed that we are doing great and that we are.....simply...happy.  Yes, we still have our days and our loss has marked us for as long as we live, but we think it has marked us in a good way.  I think Marc would be comforted to see that he is still missed every day, but that his absence has not destroyed our ability to live and move forward. 

We all have choices to make in this life.  We can choose to let our losses and sorrows keep us from living, or we can decide to live the precious time God has given us for good and His glory.  The kids and I agree that the best way to honor Marc is to live our lives fully; firmly rooted in God's promises.   I think the greatest lessons I learned from Marc's life were to love and to serve.  From his illness and death, I learned that life is short here on this earth.  None of us know what tomorrow may bring.  Be content in this day -- grateful for it.  In a couple of generations there will not be anybody left to remember Marc.  There won't be anyone to remember me...or you.   For most of us, our lives aren't defined by our broad monumental contributions.  They are defined by moments and choices -- speaking kindly, choosing grace, controlling our temper, minding our words, not gossiping, serving, making the hard choices, being generous, being patient, loving.  Life is in the now....today.   Life is all about the day God has given us.  What will you do with yours?

 
 

 
 

 







 
 
 
 
 
Remembering all the good that a well lived life can do. Marc -- thank you for the memories and your legacy.  We hope we would make you proud if you could see us now!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

All The Pretty Ponies

I am watching my girl grow up before my eyes.  I've realized as I have been riding with her this summer just how grown up she is.  I can remember her first horseback ride when she was just a toddler -- she was in love with horses from the start.  Now I watch as she rides without fear.  I am both very proud and very much afraid.......but mostly proud.  They grow up so fast!

 
Julia and Bonnie.  2014.
Finally a horse to call her own.
 

Julia and Marc's horse, Truffles.  2009.
Struggling to get that big stubborn horse to listen!  Truffles had a mind of her own.

 
Julia and sweet Annie.  2006.
This sweet pony got my girl hooked on riding.
 
 
I believe she has the hang of it!  These two are quite the pair. 
 


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Life. Keep it Coming.

Sometimes I have to just sit and count my blessings.  God's mercies seem overwhelming at times -- especially when I really start to think about them.  I marvel sometimes at the tapestry God weaves out of our lives.  Looking back on difficult times helps me appreciate how He has used our trials for good.  Lately we have been able to really appreciate the good.  In light of the valleys we have been through, the high ground seems so much more beautiful.  We are enjoying some sweet times and a refreshing perspective these days!

Over the Fourth of July weekend we went up the mountain to horse camp with John and Sheila & Co.  I've known John and Sheila for what seems like forever.  Before we had kids we hiked, camped, and hit the trails on our horses.  After I became pregnant with the twins we remained close friends, but the productivity of our relationship waned.  We used to be able to play and work together as two couples -- camping, hiking, riding, working on house projects, farm projects, putting up hay.  After the boys were born it has been years of juggling life's demands between the four of us.  First I was pregnant and breastfeeding.  The next year was Sheila's turn.  Then mine.  Then hers.  Mine again.  Hers.  As our brood grew we would take turns watching the kids while the more "able" mom helped with hay or projects.  Then we built houses.  We went first, then John and Sheila.  Marc got sick and he became the focus.  John and Sheila helped us during that time just as they always have done.  Then, Sheila followed suit with a devastating breast cancer diagnosis.  Life.  It just keeps coming. 

During this crazy time of our lives we have always been friends -- always circling round to help each other out and enjoying each other's company.  Every time we meet up we reminisce about the days when we would go on adventures, or work nonstop, without worrying about nap schedules or little ones underfoot.  We talked about the hope of future days when the kids would be old enough to join us on long hikes or horseback rides.  On our bucket list was the ability to horse camp again.  With small children and full lives it always seemed too cumbersome and hard to pack the kids, horses, and all the equipment.  "Someday," we said.  Someday.

When Sheila got sick we focused on her year of treatment.  At the end of treatment we vowed that we would go riding and camping.  The bucket list that we had put off because of life's responsibilities was now the reward at the end of a grueling treatment cycle.  Sheila finished her very last treatment this week.  She is healthy -- infusions complete and surgery behind her.  She is a survivor.  Life.  It just keeps coming. 

So, over the Fourth we made good on our promise to get out and enjoy our families and our animals.  We headed up to Mt. Hood with four horses, seven children, three dogs, and four optimistic (or naive) adults.  It was a great time!  Everything worked out great -- a success all the way around.  I kept thinking to myself during our trip that we actually did it.  I was amazed.  Wow.  After so many years and lots of challenging times, we actually got to enjoy what we love.  Who would have thought it?

Sheila and I took the girls out for two days of riding.  The second day was a fifteen mile ride!  I think I overindulged!  Ouch!!!  John took the older boys and did a twelve mile hike.  Brian and Kami took the two youngest kids and played at the lake and rested at camp.  By the way...a big thank you to my sweet husband for making this trip easy and enjoyable for everyone.  Without his help we couldn't have made this weekend a success.  He's amazing.  I did manage to get Brian out for a bit of a ride Friday night.  It was nice to ride away from camp for a bit of time together while the kids hung out at camp.  Sweet freedom.  Those moments are much appreciated.

Some pictures from then and now.  My how we have changed!

Then......


Sweethearts.  1999.  Awwwww.
 
 
John, Simon, and Skipper.
Our last trail ride before we had kids. 
 

Our last trail ride at Timothy Lake.  1999.
I was four weeks pregnant and hadn't a clue.  
 
 
Now....
 

Sheila and Allison over the weekend.
Looking good!
 

Julia and me.  Saddle sores and all!
 

A snapshot from my evening ride with my hubby.
Peaceful and quiet...an anomaly for us. Sigh.
 
 
Last but not least....
 
We had another significant triumph over the weekend.   Like I mentioned, Sheila and I have spent the last 14 years swapping childcare duties so that one of us could help the guys.  This has been especially true during hay season.  When we arrived home from camping this weekend our hay was cut, baled, and ready to load out in the fields.  John and Brian had to work Monday so Sheila and I headed to the fields with the kids!  Everybody pitched in and we loaded and unloaded everything in just a few short hours.  Just us girls and our seven kiddos.  I feel like we have arrived!  Where...I don't know, but wherever it is I'm happy in this new place.  Life.  It just keeps on coming.....

 

How far we have come.....Wow.
Great friends and amazing kids.  Love each one of them!
 
With love and gratitude....

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summer Break!!!

I woke up this morning with nothing to do and nowhere to be.  Nothing. Weirdness.

After several weeks of scrambling to help the kids finish strong at school, we are finally on summer break.  I'm not quite sure what to do with myself yet.  I'm giving myself today to settle down and shift gears.  It's hard!  I need to find my summer identity -- the one that doesn't include packing lunches, checking homework folders, or driving the wheels off my van.  Like every summer, this will take some getting used to.  I can't wait to figure it out!

This last week in all of its craziness was very special.  Kami graduated high school.  Adam and Ben were promoted from the eighth grade -- they are now....sniff...freshmen.  Sigh.  Where does the time go?  I'm busting with pride over all three of them, and at the same time feeling desperate to know where the time has gone.  I get this panicky feeling when I realize that Kami will be leaving home in August and my boys will be starting high school.  Yikes!  These transitions hurt my heart, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  These kids are amazing young people and have a lot to offer this world.  We couldn't be more pleased. 





Our big, beautiful family!
The kids are starting their lives in different states, making these pictures  harder and harder to capture.  Everybody was in town for Kami's graduation and I was delighted to be able to get a picture of all of us together.  They are growing up....
 
 
Adam...looking just like his dad.  So proud of this sweet guy!
 
 
Ben.  We couldn't be more pleased with his accomplishments and character!
 
 
One of the most amazing groups of kids around.  These guys all love (and fight) like siblings.  They are all scattering to different high schools.  We will miss this group!  A bittersweet time for us.


 



Proud Mom and Dad!
 
 
 
Kami Crockatt Superstar
(Photo courtesy of Debbie Booth)
 
 
Proud Dad and Bonus-Mom
(Yeah, our buttons are busting...couldn't be more pleased with this amazing girl)
 
 
Well, that's what we have been up to.  Guess it's time to look around and figure out what's next.  I think for today, though, I'm going to finish my book and throw in some laundry.  Ease into this whole summer break thing!
 
Hope to see you here more often this summer!
 
With love and gratitude.....
 






 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Eclipse


A couple of weeks ago our second grade teacher took a day off.  Her father is battling pancreatic cancer and it appears his fight is nearing its end.   She wanted to be with her family. It was a Wednesday -- my usual day to TA in the classroom.  I went about my business that morning sorting papers and going down my checklist.  I ran to the main building to drop some things off and when I came back to the classroom the kids were all praying.  This is part of their morning routine and I quietly headed to the back of my classroom to my desk so as not to distract.  As the students started praying for Mrs. B and her father, the sun broke through and created the most beautiful image on the floor.  Three perfect cross silhouettes illuminated on the carpet.  I was touched and in awe of the timing.  Two amazing things about this image:  First, all the windows are plastered with crosses that the kids made in anticipation of Easter; however, only the one with three crosses projected on the floor.  Second, the sun broke through.  In Oregon.  In April.  A miracle in and of itself.  Seriously, though, it touched a nerve deep within me. 

I ran to grab my phone to take a picture.  I wanted to show Mrs. B what had happened while the kids had prayed specifically for her and for her father.  Immediately I stood in front of the image to get a straight on shot.  It disappeared behind my shadow as I eclipsed the sun.  Duh.  I gathered my minimal intelligence and moved to the side and captured the fleeting moment.  As I called the sub and the kids over to see the image it started to fade and distort with the shifting sunlight. That image has not returned since.

We all returned to our seats and resumed our day, but something about that image and the timing of it comforted my soul.  It's tugged at my heart for a couple of weeks and I have reflected on the picture often.  A lot has been going on in our lives these days.  I know so many people that I love that have burdens and sorrows that haunt them.  Regrets.  Sadness.  Bitterness.  Choices.  Selfishness.   There are also those stories that I am aware of, but not personally involved in.   Messes.  So many messy lives.  You know what's funny, though?  We all have messes.  It's our lives.  Our stories.  We all have things that we haven't done quite right.  We all have human tendencies that hurt others and ourselves.  Many also have the things in their  lives beyond control -- accidents, cancer, a cheating spouse,  job losses.  It's life.  It's not perfect and we are so incredibly flawed. 

For those of us who have a relationship with Jesus, we more than welcome him in to clean up our messes and save us from ourselves.  He is an expert at redemption and healing. God sacrificed his son that we might have that relationship with him!  But what I have noticed from so many believers is a tendency to step in front of the savior and take on his role.  How many of us help those in need that appeal to us -- not the unlovely and difficult, but the ones that are easy and not messy.  How many of us sit back and criticize the behavior of others -- using ourselves as a measuring stick for how others should behave?  How many of us gossip?  Judge?  Make assumptions about situations we don't understand?  Are condescending, proud, smug, or cliquish?   I know I've been guilty of all the above at one time or another.   What I have come to realize is that those attitudes don't reflect a heart that has submitted completely to God.  They certainly don't reflect what God expects of us.   In the process of being self serving others aren't seeing Him.  People are stumbling over me.  Are they stumbling over you?

Just think....if we could humble ourselves enough to be real and transparent how much we could serve and comfort each other.  The facade we put up that makes it look like we have our act together doesn't help anyone.    What if we admitted our brokenness and gave credit to our savior for cleaning up our mess?  What if we stepped aside and made all of this about Him and not at all about us?  What if we stopped eclipsing the Son?  Just wondering.....

Hope you all had a wonderful Easter!

With love and gratitude....

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Happy Birthday Little-Big-Men!

 

 
 
Time has flown.  Yesterday my sweet little boys were...well...little.  They are still sweet, but I'm struck these days by how grown up they are.  Perhaps it's because this is the first birthday that they are taller than me.  Sniff.  Or, perhaps, it's the razor and shaving cream that have appeared in their bathrooms.  Is it their independence?  Their increasing wit?  Is it the driver's ed manual that Brian brought home?  Maybe it's the fact that I'm seeing the next four years flying towards me and realizing that their time under my roof is nearing an end.  They are just growing up too darn fast!
 
 
One of my favorite pictures of the boys is of Ben wearing Marc's shoes.  Marc had big feet -- they went  with his big framed body.  I was always amused by the boys' fascination with their dad's shoes.  They would put their tiny feet in them and try to clomp around the house.  Inevitably they would start to giggle and fall over.  I couldn't imagine them ever growing into them.  Well.  Here we are.  They wear the same size shoes as their dad.  They aren't babies anymore.  Denial is over.
 
I've watched as my boys have not only grown into their dad's shoes, but his heart as well.  I love seeing Marc's compassion and kindness come through in my two young men.  Marc would be proud of his sons.  While they are definitely 14 and teenager through and through, they make their mama proud.  I love hearing what they think.  I like watching them reach out and befriend others.   I admire their ability to respect others and their genuine interest in people.  It's not a common trait in adults, much less teens.  The grace with which they have handled so much in their young lives takes my breath away.  For all that life has thrown them, their smiles haven't changed all that much.  What an amazing testament to God's love and provision!
 
I'm excited to watch them continue to grow.  I know they aren't finished yet.  We've got a long ways to go for that.   For now, though, they are off to an amazing start.  We couldn't be more pleased with the men they are becoming.
 
Adam and Ben --
 
Brian and I are so proud of you and love you so much!  Keep up the good work! We think you're pretty awesome guys.
 
Love,
 
Mom

 
 
 


Monday, March 24, 2014

And Then God Made Hazel.....

This is Hazel....

Hazel belongs to the men in my life; however, Hazel believes that I belong to her.  Hazel was a good little puppy.....



 

This was a year ago.  Yes, our baby is one year old now.  Sigh.  Wasn't she precious? 

Fast forward a year.  And....well...now this is Hazel.

 

She is beautiful in her own way.  Or, so I am told....

What Hazel lacks in refined beauty, she makes up in personality.  She is also very gifted.  You see, Hazel is a hunting dog.  She loves, Loves, LOVES, to hunt.  Everything.  All day.  This is a dog on the move -- always stalking...always prowling.  Unfortunately, Hazel's gifts cannot be utilized on a daily basis.  She has to improvise. 

Multiple times a week, Hazel will bring me her kill.  She proudly displays her kills in the same place.  Prominently -- so I can admire them when I drive in the driveway.  I'll give you a little tour of her trophies and the changes she has made around the place.

 
#1  My Lobelia plant that I got for Mother's day 10 years ago.  Dead.

 
#2  A grainy picture of the garbage can lid.  Dead

 
#3  A Rubbermaid container that kept the kindling dry.  Dead

 
#4  A blue tarp.  The holes were a nice touch.  Very dead.

 
#5  The dryer vent cover.  Gone.  MIA.  She ate it, I think.

 
#6  The welcome mat at our entry.  You are still welcome, but.....

 
#7  The weed barrier that we use beneath the river rock.  Expertly shredded. Dead, dead dead.

 
#8  My spring flowers.  An exercise in futility.  Dead. We won't try that this year....

 
#9  The hose reel that was attached the house.  Also, dead...

 
#10  A cow femur.  Fortunately it didn't belong to our neighbor's cow.  It was part of Sophia's science show and tell.  Not anymore. Dead.

 
#11  Electric Fence Tape.  That one was fun.

 
#12  My mint plant.  Goodbye mojitos.  Goodbye minted salads.  Farewell. 

 
#13
  A Styrofoam insulator brick.  Beyond destroyed.  Dead
 
 
#14  This is what is left of Luke's collar.  She ate it...tags and all. 
 
 
 
#15  Her one redeeming kill.  A mole.  Dead!  Unfortunately my yard looks like the landscape of the moon for all the effort she made in catching it. 

Most days I come home to a surprise.  Yes, I am very irritated.  I even mutter -- loud enough to hear -- really encouraging phrases.  Things like, "I hate that dog....I'm going to kill her....What on earth/!?."  Those types of phrases, mixed with groans and exasperated sighs, don't mask my annoyance very well.  But, I have to admit....I still like her.  AND, I think she's a genius!  Every single time she brings us a kill, she gets in BIG trouble.  She gets scolded.  I yell at her and give her my angry eyes.  She tucks her stubby tail and gives us the forlorn look.  It's not an act.  She feels terribly bad about her behavior. Despite the evidence above, she is a good dog.  She obeys.  Never once has she destroyed the same thing twice!

Sometimes you just need to tweak the perspective in order to love something...difficult.

Have a great spring break!

With love and gratitude....