Friday, August 22, 2014

Snapshot: Jumping and Screaming

Kids on a trampoline on a summer day. :)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Comment About Depression

Re-posted from my FB feed.

I have one more comment about depression, and in particular the tendency for the Christian community to be dismissive of those who struggle with clinical depression.

One of the major problems we have is a lack of clear language in addressing the problem. As I see it, there are really two separate issues that both get lumped into the category of “depression.”
First, there is what I call “the blues.” Life gets you down. You feel sad. Problems seem heavy. You feel tired. You call yourself depressed. Everyone goes through this from time to time. When life gets better, it fades away again. You can choose to trust God. This state is what Matt Walsh is talking about when he said he has been depressed but chose to be joyful regardless. People may even go to the doctor and get medication for this, and that’s fine. We all go through rough patches.

Then, there is actual clinical depression, or MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). It’s a physical chemical imbalance that results in depressed feeling and hopelessness and fatigue, but the difference is, you can’t think it away. Yes, God can heal it, just as He can heal cancer or diabetes, but just like cancer or diabetes, sometimes He doesn’t. Sometimes you have to live with it and manage it. And like cancer or diabetes, just choosing joy isn’t going to help. It sometimes feels like a dark cloud is over you even when doing your favorite activities or when life is going really well. Yes, it can develop as a result of stress or grief, but it doesn’t stay connected to those, because when the stress goes away, the chemical imbalance does not. Medication can help. Therapy can help. Time can help. Healing can help. Like eating a healthy diet helps manage diabetes, thinking in healthy ways helps manage depression, but it doesn’t cure it.

What also doesn’t help is people telling you to buck up and get over it. It’s like telling someone with skin cancer, “yeah, I had a mole, but I just ignored it and it was fine.” Ridiculous, right?

Mental health issues are hard to define, harder to diagnose and harder to communicate about. There is a huge stigma over them. It feels shameful enough to admit that our bodies are broken without having people tell us that it’s our fault. It’s hard enough to feel sick when you’re doing your favorite activities with your family. Having other people say that if you’d just try a little harder, the sickness would simply evaporate makes the burden a little heavier. It puts a heavier burden onto our families who are told that if they just pray better for us, or be good a little more often, we’d be okay. And when we’re not, they think it’s their fault. I grew up with that burden. The teaching can be so subtly destructive. 

I think it’s important to be clear in our definitions. Don’t claim you’re “depressed” if you’re just being a whiny-pants. Leave room for those who really do struggle with the condition of depression to have the respect they need and the support to manage it well and minimize its impact on themselves and their families. Pray for healing, sure, but don’t blame them when God’s answer is “wait.” Realize that perhaps that person is so much better at choosing to be joyful in the midst of trying circumstances than you will ever have to be, because they choose to get up every single morning, and choose to go about their day when that choice alone is more difficult than anything you might ever have to face. Thank God for your health; and then love that other person without criticism and without judgment. They probably don’t need a kick in the butt from you, because they are already ten times stronger than you’ll ever have to know.


Three weeks ago, Bean had a fever. He didn't want a blanket; he wanted a barf bowl. He watched a marathon of Curious George. 

Last week, Little Mister had a fever. He didn't need a barf bowl (thank goodness), but we missed church in favor of playing computer games and intermittently sleeping. 

This week, Curly wound up with temperatures in the 103 range. Little Fritz acted the part of nurse and comforter. Or maybe he just liked the warm place to snuggle. 

Fun With Bees

This is my normal hand. 

This is my hand on histamines. 

Sunday afternoon at the barn, I accidentally nailed an electric fence insulator into a wall that had previously been claimed by a nest of wasps. One of them punished me for it, and I've paid the price all week. 

Benadryl. Ice packs. More Benadryl. Hydrocortisone. More Benadryl. 

I think I only just woke up. 

Little Mister got stung on Tuesday while climbing our big willow tree in the back yard. As a precaution, we went ahead and took him into the ER, although thankfully this time he didn't go into anaphylactic shock. 

Ok, Mommy, your blood pressure can go back down again!

And in a very anti-climactic finish, Bean got stung twice and didn't react at all. 

Thank goodness!

Hubby bought three new bee traps yesterday and hung them up. 

Battle is joined. 

Monday, August 18, 2014


This morning, we dove in and tried the full schoolwork-list method. Several things became apparently obvious. 

1. Curly loves lists. She was happy and humming all morning. 

2. Mister HATED it. He was overwhelmed and whiny. He needs more autonomy. The problem is that Curly cries "unfair" when she has a list and he doesn't. This needs some serious problem-solving. 

3. All the kids working on a list at the same time results in bored Bean (read whiny, mischievous Bean), and too many simultaneous demands on my time and attention. I was trying to help Abi read a new book, treat my bee sting, fend off Bean's many questions, and correct the spelling on Curly's writing all at the same time. It did not work. 

I need to stagger the attention to each kid, and make sure Bean has something to do when his usual playmates are occupied. 

I need to figure out how to give Mister the autonomy he needs without frustrating Curly too much. 

Time to put on my thinking cap! Stay tuned. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I love fixing up this old barn

Lots of barn work today! (happy me) I worked there with only Curly and we installed all the electrical. Then later, Hubby and the kids came and we did some of the heavier stuff. The kids had a ball pounding nails into scrap wood. 

Rabbit holes dug out. 
Electric fence charger installed
Wires run from charger to both fences
Non-sturdy wall reinforced
Hole in the wall fixed
More bee nests killed
Old boards moved 
Old rusty nails picked up
Lots of thistles removed
Roof screwed back down
Door installed next to hay
Electric fence turned on and tested 
Concrete slab cleaned off
Gap in fence jury-rigged solution
More insulators installed where fence touched a tree

I can't explain why I love this old barn so much. It has certainly seen better days. It sort of has memories of its previous owners, who happen to be friends of mine, and that feels a little awkward. But it seems like if this little old barn had a personality, it would be happy to be useful again. In spite of its crooked walls and peeling paint, it has such a delightful way of welcoming me in, making me feel relaxed, as if I just put on an old pair of slippers and relaxed into a favorite chair. 

I am impatient to bring Rogan there. I can imagine him exploring the pasture, enjoying the grazing, playing games with Curly in the round pen, trying to steal a mouthful of hay over the stall door. 

I keep reminding myself that it's only a few more weeks and we'll be ready for him. A few more piles of stuff to move. A few more wheelbarrows of muck to haul. 

Speaking of muck, I finally got through all the layers of chicken yuckiness to the floor of the stall. In one corner. 

It's gonna take a lot of wheelbarrow loads to get all of that out of there. Not that I mind much. Just part of the project. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Schooly Ponderings

Buying math workbooks today, (Curly requested an actual workbook to work through this fall) and convincing my children that they really do want to use a reading list to choose literature. Mister has decided he wants to learn algebra. He spent the whole time during horse chores making up math puzzles, like 45 + X = 50. X = 5.  So I got him a playful "intro to algebra" workbook along with the 5th grade math workbook he can use this fall. At this rate, he'll be into calculus and differential equations before he has two digits in his age! (I'm joking. I hope he takes his time and learns each concept thoroughly. But he LOVES math.) Curly is going to do fifth grade math too, but she is more excited about art and her horse. 

For both of them, we decided together that science was going to be more physics-heavy this year. We did so much biology, anatomy and earth science last year, and I happen to love physics. Simple machines, trajectories, force, motion... It's gonna be fun. :) 

Bean wanted a workbook too, so I got him a "counting to 30" book. I'm curious how this is going to go! So far, he is doing great with Reading Eggs, so he might take off with math too. 

Abi read three little books for me today. Her reading speed has jumped a notch this month. I'm really pleased, because she needs to get more vocabulary, and it wasn't going to happen at the snail's pace that she was reading. 

For her math, we've been doing a lot of money counting, calendars and telling time, but I need to get back onto teaching addition. Note to self. Time to buy a pack of M&Ms and start adding!

I think all the back-to-school buzz has infected our house too. I wonder when our official "first day" will be? The day we're at the swimming pool all day, probably. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Meadow Creek 2014

This year, the Littles got to join us at Meadow Creek! I thought they were going to jump out of their skins from excitement!

Getting ready to take six people hiking was a lot of work! I also was struggling with health issues that made it harder. 

Finally, Friday night, there were six packs, six sleeping bags, six sleeping pads, two tents, and plenty of food!

Ready to hike! I was a little worried about Abi on the trail, but we figured out a method to guide her in which we tied a long hiking pole onto Little Mister's pack, and she hung onto the other end, along with using her cane. They went slowly, but she did fantastic!

We only hiked about 1/3 mile, and once we arrived on the little sand bar where we like to camp, the kids spent the whole afternoon in the creek. 

As expected, the kids stayed up until the stars came out, giggling, telling stories, playing with their head lamps. 

At one point, Bean's head lamp flashed around the tent so fast that Hubby dryly said, "Look, we brought a disco ball."

In the morning, Hubby wanted to try being the chef. Using the little whisperlite camp stove is fun!

At lunch time, we packed up to head out. A few miles to the east, the Johnson Bar fire was sending smoke to cover our camp site, and we were ready to start for home. 

Despite the smoke and despite me not feeling up to par, we had a good trip. The kids had a ball, and I love introducing them to the backcountry. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


An indie bookstore in our community hosts a month-long Waldo scavenger hunt each July. They end with a party and costume contest at the bookstore. 

This year, because the kids love Waldo, they begged to dress up for the contest. I agreed to help make them some costumes. 

A few supplies from Wal-Mart and a day of sewing and crafting, and we were off and running. 

Abi was Waldo. Curly was Wizard Whitebeard. Bean was Woof, and Mister was Odlaw, the bad guy reverse Waldo-spelled-backwards. 

The bookstore served cake, and then held the costume contest. 

Quite a few little Waldos, along with a smattering of princesses and an alligator lined up. 

Little Mister won a gift card, and so did a couple of other Waldos with fun Waldo-y glasses. 

And that was that. 

We didn't qualify for the raffle since we didn't visit enough businesses around town. 

We did head next door to enjoy Gyros for dinner. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pictures From An Evening of Picking Blackberries

Rural Idaho. It does my soul good. 

A Bean with Maui Waui Sherbet ice cream is a happy Bean. 

The star of the evening: blackberries! They are just coming on, so we got, as Little Mister put it, just enough for a pie. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Barn Work

As I mentioned a while back, we have a horse family member now. We bought him from Curly's riding teacher, or rather my mom helped us buy him! Anyway, Curly's teacher asked to keep using him for students for the rest of the summer, and we agreed. 

Once fall comes, we'll move him to the barn and pasture we've rented. I'm absolutely thrilled with our arrangement. The rent goes to support Peniel Crossing, a ministry I wholeheartedly endorse. 

We also have a nice old barn and grassy pasture to use for Rogan. It couldn't be better. 

The barn had previously been used to house chickens, so it needed some work to get it back to horse-mode. Also, the pasture fence was in sad shape. 

We've been out there in the evenings working on it to get it ready. Rather than being a burden, it has been a lot of fun! Matt and I really enjoy working together. I love the farm-type work, and to his surprise, so does Matt. It's a nice change from programming. The kids poke around the barn and have a great time nailing old boards together and so forth. 

Tonight I finally remembered to take some pictures of our progress. I built an inside door to the stall to keep Rogan out of the haystack. Luckily, there's plenty of scrap lumber around. 

We have a fence! A church friend and his boys put the whole fence up in one morning. In exchange, I plan to teach a home-ec class for his daughter, who is Curly's age. A good, old-fashioned barter. :)

We have all of our hay snug and dry. The July thunderstorms came through right as we were getting it moved, but now that it's done, the weather's beautiful. Typical. 

We opened up an outside door to the horse stall. It had been blocked in with random old windows for the chickens, but we took those out again. 

There's still a lot of work to do. Several lumber piles need to be moved. 

The inside of the stall still needs to be finished. At this point it's about half chicken coop and half garbage. 

One more really cool thing: I drove!!! For the first time in almost four years. I wore my new special tinted lenses. I didn't feel comfortable driving with kids, but I could see well enough to be safe, at least for the five minutes it took to get from the house to the barn. 

I'm looking forward to spending more time out here. I love working here. 

Quilting Corner

The kids had VBS this morning!

Which means I had time in the house without them. 

Which means I had time to clean. 

You know what they say: that cleaning your house while the kids are in it is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. 

Anyway, the smallness of my house (which I love) and the bigness of my family (which I love) dictates that I need to be really efficient in my use of space. To that end, I moved Little Mister's computer back into the school room, and moved a stray rocking chair into the corner of the dining room. I'm tired of my quilting project taking up space in the living room, but I won't work on it if it's put away. (The same principle is why our guitars and violins hang on the wall.)

So, I moved the quilt to the dining room, attempting to tuck it into the smallest space possible. 

I think it looks like an old-fashioned "Mom's Mending Corner." :)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What we do while waiting at a restaurant


Look bored. 


Eskimo kisses. 

Make silly fish faces. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


I got to hike my favorite 3.5 mile loop today. I think I'm the luckiest person in the world to get to hike this place every summer.

Today, I hiked alone, and savored every moment. I didn't have anyone pushing me. I could stop and take time to breathe. So many people would call asthma and low vision liabilities, but I've learned to call them blessings. On a hike when I want to push through and conquer the mountain, these two friends of mine make me stop, pause, take in a view, notice a texture. They make me slow down and observe. To take macro photos instead of landscapes. 

That, my friends, is a gift. It's my unique window on the world, and I get to enjoy it and share it here, in my little space.

Adding descriptions to each photo so my blind friends can also enjoy the post is another gift. I get to think closely about each image rather than slapping them up here and clicking the publish button. Maybe the thoughts can bring more depth; maybe not. But there they are.

My hiking stick. A symbol of weakness to many; to me it's a symbol of strength and endurance and hiking in places where some would say I don't belong. Those places are where I feel most at home.

To touch a rock. The feeling of a rock, cool and solid on the side of the trail, a thrusting upward of the miles of solidity under my feet. The touch is the only real thing in a sea of swimming images around me. It's worth stopping beside the trail to lay my fingertips on the rock.

Moss on a log. Textures of the forest, soft and moist, receding away from me up a hill that I might pass and never even see.

Trail. The trail leads me on, compelling me to follow it and peer around every new corner, rising to every new height. The trail becomes everything.

Optical illusion. Does it go up or down? Life. Good or bad? There is only onward and each new hidden bend in the road.

Vista. The camera can capture a faraway beauty that the eye does not see. But the sense of space, the sounds far in the distance make it seem open, as if the trees do not actually hide anything at all. Concealing becomes illusion instead of reality.

Berries by the trail. Clumps of sweetness or poison, unknown which it is. I'll snap a photo of them, and walk on past.

Erosion. The trail is full of logs half-buried. The earth will try to swallow them, and if it succeeds the rain can be free to wash the trail into oblivion. 

Thimbleberry. And a lacy pattern of holes eaten in a leaf by bugs. Layers of leaves seen through damaged salads and a red berry ripe for picking. Seedy sweetness sitting in sunlight and shadow.

Steep drop-off. Memories of coming down this hill in the rainy dark and fear of this unseen steepness that could take hold of my feet and pull me into gravity's romantic descent. Seeing the steepness today in sunlight should make it more safe: to know the peril is to choose another path, to caress the warm bosom of the patient mountainside.

Stumps. Former trees now waiting for time and rain to reduce growing wood to soft powdered rot and discontinue their ageless task of allowing the path to drape along each trunk.

Growth. This spot, a steep rocky step, I fell last year, my right knee bloodied, my denim torn. This spot, I rose to my feet and kept walking. And this year I did not fall.

Sign at the summit. Jarring reminder to dog owners that their manners mustn't jar. Arrows point, and carved letters spell names of trails that probably have their own names deep in the earth's first song.

Sitting on a log. Stick and shoes and a water bottle leftover from one of Bean's forays into the world of Sprite. Sitting with sweat and accomplishment running down the middle of my back, and still eager to rise again and continue on.

Yarrow growing from a rock in the middle of a trail. Why a rock, little plant? Why the middle of the trail where anyone can step on you? Thank you, because you are strong, and I can see you and touch you right there on your rock in the middle of the trail.

And down again without shade, around the end of 3.5 miles where the Ranger was mending fences, and where my noisy family replaced the solitude of refreshment. Ready again for hugs and stories and sharing snacks. Ready to give more, placed in my own trail, growing from my own rock, I'm also strong.