23 April 2008

Spring in an Old House

It seems like everyone loves spring these days. Of course we do! How could we not be excited about sunshine, warmth, and the beautiful tulips blooming? Honestly though, spring has always been my favorite season, so I was in for a real treat when I experienced the first spring in this old house. Not knowing what all was planted around our yard, I was overwhelmingly happy when the tulips began to bloom in clusters up and down our driveway that first year we lived in this 80 year old plus house.

Every spring I like to imagine about how many years those bulbs have produced beautiful blooms and what the lives were like of the people who lived here each time they opened. Maybe some of those years the tulips appeared at just the right time when the families before us needed something good in their lives and some years, those flowers may have been an added bonus to celebrations they already were experiencing.

In the almost 5 years that I've been watching the green shoots poke out under cloudy gray skies and then a few weeks later burst into reds, yellows, pinks, and purples, these flowers have accented my life as well. Three years ago when Asher was born in March, the tulips were an outside display of the joy we had inside (and were also a bright spot when my tired eyes were bleary from being awake through the night).

This year, the tulips represent hope. I've been reminded that God is faithful and that all things are renewed - even lives that have gone through wintery periods.

14 April 2008

Things I never thought I'd say #5

Five is a good whole number, so this will be the last in my little series (sniff, sniff).

When I was young and immature, I hated salad and any kind of vegetables. Believe me, I know its a chore to get a child to eat vegetables but I think I might have been more extreme in my hatred of raw carrots, lettuce, celery, or really anything raw. My high school best friend and I prided ourselves on disliking salads. When we went to Prom and Homecoming, we left our salads untouched and somehow this was the cool thing to do while our other girlfriends nibbled away like rabbits at their salads.

My taste buds didn't really start to mature until I was in college and began to force myself to eat salads and raw vegetables. It is a true story that when I was preparing to spend a summer in Ukraine, I began a self-imposed training to eat at least one raw cucumber at lunch and dinner in anticipation of a summer of eating cucumbers under watching eyes. This training worked and I made it through the summer gnawing on those horrid veggies without gagging. I wasn't really able to maintain a conversation during those meals, but since my Ukrainian words were limited to "please," hello," "thank you," and "no more book pages as toilet paper," I did just fine.

After that summer, I became more and more adventurous and I now eat salad and select raw vegetables frequently (just had a salad for lunch!). So, the thing that I never thought I would say is

"Let's have an adventure this summer and try to eat more vegetables!"

My excitement began this past weekend when Asher and I attended a Sustainable Living Expo at Illinois Wesleyan. I learned a lot of interesting things but am most excited about joining a CSA. I'm probably showing my Mid-West "green" uneducation by saying I just learned that CSA stands for Community Sponsored Agriculture. Basically its like having a garden without the hard work. Members of a CSA pre-pay into the group in exchange for a weekly distribution of fresh, locally grown produce.

I'm planning to join a half share of the Mitchell Farms Produce CSA (www.mitchellproduce.com). It sounds like a healthy adventure to receive fruits and veggies every week and a challenge to try to use them all up before getting another round a week later.

If anyone local is interested in joining too, let me know! We could each save $20 if we sign up together!!

Although I still avoid cucumbers at all costs, I now have a husband who has agreed to eat all of the cucumbers we receive (and I'll eat his share of tomatoes).

12 April 2008

Things I never thought I'd say #4

I thought I was done with this series, but I've been thinking about another statement recently as I've been writing about it for another project. This one is not something I actually originated, but I found myself repeating it often because it was kind of out there and mysterious.

My parents moved to Africa a little over 7 years ago to become missionaries. While I am extremelly proud of what they are doing and totally supportive of their work, its really not easy to have parents who live so far away and who I don't get to talk with very much. I just tried a new phone communication option with them yesterday, and almost ended in tears of frustration because the connection was so horrible.

While I was in college, I dreamed of living overseas doing some type of missions work. This wasn't a foreign concept that I picked up while away at school, although the passion was fanned there, but my parents had instilled this excitement of God's work around the world in our family from the time I first went to Brazil when I was 6 and my sister was 3.

My dad worked at State Farm for over 25 years - a very stable life and kind of the nerdy comfort zone that I find my little family in now. I imagined mom and dad would be doing missions trips for the rest of their lives, and would probably do longer stints once they retired, but never thought they would move away before retirement while I was still unmarried, my sister was still in college, and my brother was just entering junior high. But that's what happened.

Their first step in doing full-time missions work was joining Wycliffe Bible Translators. After completing a training course here in the U.S., they headed to Tanzania to do a field training where they lived in huts and eventually sent back pictures of my brother with spears and machetes attached to his body as if he was daily fighting off lions and large snakes.

Since the field training was meant to be very remote and physically challenging, we did not hear from them often at first. Until one day about a month after they left, I went to my mailbox and finally found a postcard from Tanzania! It was from my mom and one of her first sentences was,

"My monkey scratches are healing nicely."

What?? This was the first report I had from them on their well-being in the wilds of Africa. Was this supposed to be comforting? It was one of those things I never imagined I would be hearing from my mother.

Since they don't get mentioned often in this blog, I'm attaching a picture of my parents. Here they are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Looks beautiful, doesn't it? Anyone else want to sign up for the adventurous life that may include monkey scratches that need healing?

07 April 2008

Things I never thought I'd say #3

An Ifft family tradition which I've implemented into our little family is to hide the Easter baskets after they've been stocked with Peeps, chocolate bunnies, and jelly beans. As we got older the hiding places became more difficult. I'm not really sure where the tradition started...maybe its like hiding Easter eggs, which we never did while growing up.

So on Easter morning I explained to Asher that he needed to look for his Elmo basket because it had candy and other treats in it. He seemed all excited until he spotted the cleaning supply bottle and a little rag which he had reluctantly left at the bottom of the stairs the night before.

He gravitated to the little bottle and immediately began to "squirt squirt" while wiping with the rag. Because Asher was otherwise occupied, I convinced Walter to look for his basket (although he did not have the same temptation to clean first). So here is a picture of the scene where Walter had found his basket in the closet and Asher continued to clean.
I finally had to say another thing I never thought I would need to say;
"Asher, look for your Easter basket then you can finish cleaning."

02 April 2008

Things I never thought I'd say #2

Moving on, now to one of the things I've said to Asher recently that makes me wonder if I am doing something wrong in our home that made my son choose vacuums over toys.

Not too long ago, I was at Target with Asher looking for some things that he might like for his birthday (isn’t it great when you can shop for presents while your child is with you!?). I was letting him hold and play with various toys and he was having a great time until his eagle eyes looked way down and across the aisle and saw the vacuum cleaners! In a very loud voice, he shouted, "AUUMS, AUUMS" (translated to be VACUUMS, VACUUMS and meaning we needed to go look at them immediately because they are so cool).

I then heard myself say “We will go look at the vacuums, but first we need to finish looking at the toys.”

As the words came out of my mouth, I found myself hoping that there wasn’t anyone I knew lurking in the next aisle!