Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Our Easter morning started off with a little surprise when we stepped out the door on our way to church. Some bunny had left Easter eggs for Michaela on the front porch and in our front planter. One of them had been consumed by some wild creature in the night, but the others were intact and easy to find. At first we thought that Michaela's uncle had left them for us, but it turned out our next-door neighbor and his elderly mom had decorated them with us in mind, and he left them for us sometime last night. It was a really nice gesture. Michaela keeps saying, "That was a lovely surprise."

Church was wonderful. Our senior pastor is still recovering from a terrible accident, so most of the service was worship. It centered around a drama, and included worship music spanning the centuries. There was something for everyone - Gregorian chants, traditional hymns, gospel, and contemporary worship music from the last four decades. The point was that Jesus is the same, and the message of the cross is still the same even as the music styles change. I took Michaela into the service with me, and she did really well. We did sneak out during the message as she was getting restless, and we'd already been in there for about and hour and a half. I'm really proud of her for being such a good girl.

Once we got home, I hid the eggs we'd colored the other day. Michaela found all but one of them. She is not interested in actually eating any of them, though. We do not do the Easter Bunny or lavish Easter baskets around here. I didn't grow up that way, and I'd like to keep the focus on Jesus. But we did have fun coloring eggs and searching for them in the garden.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Growing Our Own Food

I so much enjoyed the container garden we started about a month ago that I was inspired to find a way to do even more gardening. I had seen kits for raised garden beds over the last few years, but they were always so expensive. I really didn't want to invest two or three hundred dollars to buy a kit, and I didn't have the know-how to make my own from scratch either.

Nevertheless, I kept thinking about it and how much fun it would be for Michaela and me. Then, a couple weeks ago, I found a very reasonably priced kit on Amazon. I almost always read a few reviews before I make a purchase there, and I was encouraged to read that other people found the kit very easy to assemble. A couple of reviewers even said that their twelve and thirteen year-old sons had assembled the kits for them. Hey, if a kid can do it, so can I!

So I bought one, and a few days later it was on my porch. I love shopping online!

I already knew where the sunniest spot in my backyard was, so I tacked down some weed resistant cloth, and set about assembling my kit. The only thing I had a hard time with was screwing in the end caps. My dad says he'll take care of that for me in the near future. They're just decorative anyway.

I purchased 21 cubic feet of organic soil to fill the boxes, but by the time I got home my gardener was here and he had about that much in his truck. It was leftover from another job and he just gave it to me. That was so nice of him. The only drawback is that I have to return most of the other soil. Oh, well...

I shoveled soil into the taller of the two boxes until it was full and called it a day.

The next day I finished filling the shorter box with the rest of the soil my gardener gave me, and I was happy to have the other soil on hand because I needed another three cubic feet to finish the job.

Michaela and I had picked up some beautiful fruit and veggie plants at the local nursery to add to this part of our garden. We chose sweet basil, kale, another heirloom tomato (that I don't think is going to make it...), bush beans, multi-colored carrots, strawberries, and lettuces. We also sowed radish and multi-colored beet seeds. So much in such a relatively small space!

In just about five days, the lettuces have doubled in size. We tore off a leaf today and shared it right there in the yard. It was delicious!

Michaela is very diligent about checking on her berries. We check on them every chance we get. Yesterday, she was able to pick her first strawberry from our strawberry pot:

Then she picked a couple more. All of them probably could have used another day on the vine just to sweeten up, but she thought they were sweet enough. We were able to pick two or three more today, and there are lots more on the way! Our blueberry bushes are loaded with berries, but they have a way to go before they are ripe enough to eat.

I am so glad that I decided to do this with her this year. It has given me a project to focus on, and she is very interested in the things we are growing. Because we live in a climate with such mild winters, this really is something we can enjoy doing year-round. I'm already thinking about our cool season crops, and (because our kit is expandable) about adding another box onto the two we already have in the next year.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rediscovering My Garden

I used to love gardening. Then I started my masters program and an adoption from China, and I gave up my time in the garden. That didn't really mean that my yard went to pot, however. I've always had a gardening service and enough perennials to keep things looking okay. I just hadn't done much out there in the past eight years. Eight years!

The last gardening project I was involved with was when Michael and I planted three or four heirloom tomato plants in containers a few weeks before his diagnosis. I really don't remember the outcome of that effort as things got a little crazy after that.

The past three summers I just couldn't figure out how to do anything with such a little one. I was just happy to have the lawn mowed, and the weeds under control - all done by my gardener. However, last summer I realized that two of my trees had matured to the point where they were competing for space, and one of them needed to go. That finally happened a few weeks ago. With that I had to think about with what to replace the tree (a hydrangea), and that decision motivated me to consider what to do with some other bare spaces in the planters.

One of the prettiest summers I can recall in my garden way back when was when I sprinkled a lot of wildflower seeds in the planters. The results were just amazing. So that's what I've done again in hopes of having lots of color, and flowers that Michaela can pick. She helped me distribute the seeds, and she helps me water the ground every other day.

But our biggest effort was inspired by a friend who gave us a bare-root thornless raspberry bush. In going to the home improvement center to purchase a container and some soil for that, we also came home with a strawberry pot and strawberry plants. After planting them, I ordered an heirloom tomato plant, pole beans, and carrots. Today we prepared three more containers for planting, and put our new veggies in the soil. I'm thinking about purchasing two blueberry bushes next weekend, too. Michaela loves berries, and when she visits my sister's house she really loves to eat them right out of the garden.

It has been quite a while since I've been in a position to take the time to care for anything other than myself and Michaela. But I think that we are now ready to do this type of gardening together, and that we'll enjoy all its benefits in the warm months ahead.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Four Years a Widow

Early grief was terrible. I remember feeling dazed. And I remember how my grief affected me physically, and how that took me by surprise. For two or three months after Michael was gone, I took anti-anxiety medication to deal with the strange sensation of anxiety that would overtake my limbs, and make my heart race.

I took a sleeping pill each night because I didn't want to have a hard time going to sleep. I didn't want to lay there and feel miserable. I'd just spent the day feeling miserable. I needed a break.

Silence. Life became so silent after Michael was gone. Gone were the days of listening to Michael laugh and talk on the phone with his friends, and the melodic sounds of him playing the guitar in the back bedroom. Gone also were the days and nights of the sound of the oxygen machine's compressor, and Michael's cough. The silence was so big. So overwhelming.

I read a lot. Read my Bible. Read everything I could about grief and Heaven. I went to church practically every time the doors were open. It was a refuge.

Each day was different. Some better. Some worse.

Then I got pregnant. After so much tragedy, something someone incredible and beautiful was growing inside of me. Something Someone that belonged to Michael.

Through the pregnancy, and through Michaela's babyhood my grief has continued to diminish in its intensity. Nevertheless, being a young widow with a child is very hard, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. There are so many precious moments that are mine alone when they should be ours.

I've been struggling with loneliness. I've been lonely every day for four years, but it doesn't really get easier. I am not comfortable with my loneliness. Yes, there's the loneliness of a wife missing her husband, but it's even more than that.

I don't know if it's just me, or that I'm a widow (couples are notorious for avoiding widows), but I have absolutely no social life. None. As much as I love being with my daughter, I really miss adult conversation and companionship. Yesterday, a dear friend called and we got into a deep conversation about faith (we always do). Michaela was not impressed, and her behavior deteriorated the longer I stayed on the phone. I knew I needed to get off the phone, but I was so enjoying the intellectual stimulation that I was reluctant to do so. Until she pulled my hair. More than once. That did it.

Look, I know a lot of mothers of young children struggle with that sort of thing. But, more than likely, their husbands come home and they have some time to talk to him. That never happens here. I spend my weekdays with 31 children, and then I come home to my child. I haunt Facebook just so I can have some sort of adult interaction. Pitiful!

And I feel stuck at home. Michael and I used to go out of town frequently. That is much harder as a single mother with a small child for many reasons. I just want to get away. I know we'd be doing more if Michael were here. I know because we used to, and I know because that's what families do. We are not a family. We are family, but we are not a family. Get it? I have a daughter. I do not have a family. You cannot tell me otherwise.

I suppose other people who aren't widowed struggle with loneliness, and feeling like they aren't in the position to do the things they want to do. But for me, I associate these feelings and limitations to the changes I've experienced since becoming a widow. Since Michael hasn't been here.

The longer I've been a widow the more it seems like some others have forgotten this terrible loss in my life and the changes it has imposed upon me. I can think of several times in the recent past where I felt that an extra measure of thoughtfulness should have been extended to me, but wasn't. In those moments I feel that I am invisible, and that I have no voice. When I say something, I don't feel that I'm understood. So, I'm not saying anything anymore. I'll just avoid things when possible.

Four years (and two days) a widow.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Like the Deserts Miss the Rain

Friday will be the fourth anniversary of Michael's passing. He's in my heart and my thoughts all the time. I have so many memories of our time together, and I see so much of him in Michaela. It is really hard to believe that it's been four years. Life goes on. I didn't think it really could without him, but it has.

We didn't have the same taste in music, so I hope Michael wouldn't be offended that I oftentimes think of this 90s song in regards to missing him:

Although we lived in this house for almost three years together, occasionally I will drive by the house he lived in for many years before we were married. It's not far from here - just a couple of miles. I don't know why I do that. There's absolutely nothing there for me anymore, and there hasn't been in years. It's just if we're over that way, I have to take a little detour for a quick drive-by. I tell Michaela, "That's where your daddy lived before we got married." 

Michael didn't disappear, but I was with him when he left for Home. I can only imagine what it's like where he is now, and I long for the day the Lord returns to take us there, too. Michaela and I read a lot about Heaven. I have found some wonderful children's books on the subject, and they are part of our bedtime routine most nights. I tell her frequently that Daddy lives in Heaven with Jesus, and she has begun telling me that, too. I try to live with an eternal perspective on this life, and I am doing my best to impart that to Michaela. Some people think that's morbid, but in Colossians 3:1-4 the Bible tell us:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Not too long ago, I put this sticker on the back window of my minivan:

I had to look up 1 John 2:16-17 when I got the sticker because I did not remember those verses offhand. If you start reading at verse 15, the passage is really powerful:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

It's hard not to love the world. It's all we know. I supposes I'm as guilty as anyone is of wanting to feather my nest, experience lasting happiness, and enjoy the good things life has to offer. But, the truth is that none of this will last. And the best this world has to offer, is nothing compared to what the Lord is preparing for those that love Him. Since losing Michael, I have found it easier to not love the world and the things of the world. It has been easier to look ahead, through a glass darkly, to an incredible future that awaits me. This is my hope.

Life without Michael isn't terrible, but it isn't great either. I am so lonely without him, and our daughter doesn't know her father's love, the sound of his voice saying her name, or the warmth and strength of his strong arms around her. However, I know that there will come a day when my faith is made sight, and we will have the sweetest reunion together. As of Friday, we are four years closer to that.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014






We've been so close to this for so long, but two weekends ago I showed Michaela some tough love and insisted that she wear her Big Girl Panties. Did we have accidents? Yes. Within the first hour of this experiment, she had wet herself and my fabric sofa.


I was undeterred. After cleaning up, I covered the sofa cushions with old towels, and we continued with much better results. She was catching on. She'd already mastered #2 weeks ago. This was all about #1.

However, last week Grammy wasn't ready for Big Girl Panties because she was afraid of a repeat of our sofa accident. Truthfully, I was very frustrated about that. I knew that like everything in raising children, consistency is the key to success.

I found this, and was INSPIRED!

This past weekend was a three-day weekend, and we picked up where we had left off the previous weekend. She had two minor accidents, but overall the weekend was a huge success. I am so dang proud of her!

Now Grammy's on board. Yea! (Thanks, Mom!) Michaela spent the whole day in BGPs and had zero accidents. I knew she could do it!

I have ditched the diaper bag for good. Now we have a fabric storage box with a portable potty, wipes, and a change of clothes. It will go back and forth between my van and Grammy's van. Potty breaks will be doable anytime, anywhere.

Speaking of "anytime, anywhere" we have used a lot of public restrooms since we started this routine. Is there not anything worse than taking your precious, curious toddler into a public restroom? No matter how many times I tell her not to touch anything, she does. Guh-ross… Not only will we be washing our hands, I am going to stock up on hand sanitizer. Lots of it.

Now I have to fulfill my promise to buy her a play kitchen. No problem. Since I'll be saving about $55 a month not buying diapers, I can swing it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Least Favorite Month

I am not a fan of January. Usually, it's kind of gloomy and cold - well, cold for southern California. This January is not like that at all. We haven't had any rain since mid-December, and the days have been hot and dry. This is called a "Santa Ana condition", and high winds are also part of this weather condition some days. Last week the governor announced that we're in a drought. Not good. It leads to things like horrible wildfires in our local hills. I do hope we get some cooler weather and some rain in the weeks to come. March can sometimes be very wet.

One of the things I do like about typical Januaries is that it's a good time to cook soups and other comfort foods. Being that this is a three-day weekend, I had hoped to do some of that before going back to work on Tuesday. However, with temps close to 80* I really don't think I will turn on the oven this weekend.

I'm keeping up with my Couch to 5k. I took two weeks on Week 1 of the program as I tried to figure it all out. Turns out, running with a stroller is really hard. Turns out we're having a heatwave, and running in a heatwave is a deterrent for wimps like me.  So, I've been using a pass to my dad's gym the last three running days instead, and that's worked out well. I'm thinking about joining a very affordable gym in the neighborhood with childcare so that I can continue to run despite the weather, and without Michaela and the stroller. However, I would like to work up to running with Michaela and the stroller in time. When the time comes to run a 5k, I'd really like to run it with her if I can.

We are making really good progress with potty training. For a while there I could get Michaela on the toilet when I caught her at just the right time, but she really wasn't letting me know when she needed to go. When I went back to work, another teacher said that she had little books about going potty that her daughters had read when they were training. I came home that day and ordered two of them. Once they arrived, we began reading them and they made a big impression on Michaela. In the last few days, she has been very good about saying when she needs to go. I'm so proud of her! She receives gummy bears each time she uses the potty successfully, and she knows she will get a play kitchen when she's in big girl panties all the time. We're both excited about that!