Happily Ever After

This guy- I don’t know what I would do without him.

Four babies have come and gone. They are building careers and families of their own.

We are back to the two of us. We loved the years of raising our chaotic zoo and it hurts to know that we are officially done with that season. But, we are excited to be a couple again.

We started young and it wasn’t the easy way (I don’t think an easy way exists when it come to raising a family) but I wouldn’t change a thing.

When we look at our crew, we are SO FREAKING PROUD!

Happily Ever After is a way of life for us.

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See You Later- What A Wonderful Thought

This past weekend, we traveled back to Canton, TX and celebrated Jonathan as he embarks on his new life.

He has chosen to serve and departs for boot camp in less than a week. It was time to say, “See You Later.” Watching him interact with his friends and family was such a gift. Knowing that there wouldn’t be another moment like this was sobering. All of his friends will be very different when Jonathan sees them again. As it stands, we won’t see him again before August. One set of newly married friends will have welcomed their first child, his sister will be in law school and who knows what that much time will bring to the rest of their lives.

So, we soaked it all up. Laughter was in abundance as were smiles. He won’t look the same when he gets back. He will not be the same when he gets back. But, that is a thing to be celebrated, not grieved. Nothing stays the same, he is choosing to become more.

See you later, Big Boy! We could not possibly be more proud of you!

A Writer’s Day

Today was a perfect day.

I woke up happy.

Spent time with God on my balcony.

Reflected on a sweet evening with daughter #2.

Did my workout.

Snuggled with a grandbaby.

Worked a couple hours at my paying job (transaction coordinator)

Worked several hours and wrote 5000 words at my dream job. (Writer)

Marked chores off my list.

Cooked dinner

Took a walk with the love of my life in the fog and misty rain.

Completed the week’s homework assignment.

Soaked in a hot bath.

I mean, it really doesn’t get better than this! I wanted it documented so I can reflect on it when the day isn’t so perfect.

I don’t want to blow by the sweet everyday moments that add up to a beautiful life.

The Best Belongs At Home

So often, we give our best to our boss or our coworkers or our church family and we are so spent when we get home that our family gets the leftovers.

Leftovers are, 9 times out of 10, gross. Nobody wants leftovers, certainly not on a regular basis.

If we want a thriving marriage, then we must give our spouse our best. The world can take the leftovers, not the one who means the most to us.

Ornaments, Tradition, & Tapestries

Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World
Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World

When Cheyenne was about 3, a wonderful lady shared about buying ornaments for her grandchildren to hang on the “cousins tree” in her house.  Each Christmas the cousins would all come over and were given a new ornament to go on the tree and would then decorate the tree with ornaments from years past.  I thought this was great and I changed it a bit to fit the season of life that I was currently in and still am as I do not have any grandchildren yet.

Each year I give the kids a new ornament which is the first ornaments to be hung on the tree.  Their ornaments are stored in a plastic shoe box labeled with their names.  The idea was that when they left home that these would be their ornaments to decorate their own trees.  Last year, the first box left home.  Honestly, this was more traumatic for me than when the child actually left home.  There are precious memories in those boxes.

In the beginning, I wanted a themed tree- you know color coordinated and just so.  So, I purchased ornaments that went with my theme, mainly mercury glass type ornaments in shiny colors.  But then one year when the kids were still very little, I had the idea to purchase the ornaments while on our summer vacation.  I was able to do this without the kids noticing as my husband is great at keeping the kids busy while I hunt ornaments. At Christmas, the vacation would have long been a memory but when the ornaments came out the memories came back. Being stealthy about the ornament buying worked for a few years, but the children being smart and observant started looking for ornaments for me while we would be shopping.  Then this became a new tradition.  Also, it dawned on me the year we went to Chincoteague Island that if I didn’t buy myself an ornament I was going to have a very empty and sad tree when the kids left home.

From the island of Chincoteague- the light house
From the island of Chincoteague- the light house

Now, each year when the boxes are relieved of their contents, we remember each trip and tell the stories one more time.  Some years, there weren’t vacations so the ornaments were chosen based on a significant event in our lives.  Like the year all the kids got into horses, I bought horse ornaments that looked like each kid’s horse.  It has become something we all treasure and enjoy.  My tree is not coordinated, but it is themed.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I often ask the kids about their friends houses at Christmas- I am a bit of a junkie and I like to gather new ideas- so often their response is “The tree is pretty, but not special like ours.”  It seems I set the bar high without even meaning to do so.

Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas

This is what traditions are to me- threads that run through the years tying us together and weaving the tapestry that when we look back, it is the tapestry of our lives.  As the mother, it is my honor to be the keeper and maker of these traditions.

Tony would always sing the rymn "little pig, little pig let me in" to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.
Tony would always sing the rhyme “little pig, little pig let me in” to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.

What says Christmas like a pink flamingo?  Brought back from one of the many tips to the coast.
What says Christmas like a pink flamingo? Brought back from one of the many trips to the coast.

This years ornaments were make by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.
This year’s ornaments were made by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.

Opening the 2013 ornaments
Opening the 2013 ornaments

Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.
Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.

Divorce & The Holidays

christmas

As the holidays approach, life can really get complicated.  Add in blended families and divorced parents and it can be a real mine field.

So I am going to offer something that, I hope will make your holiday what you hope for.  Sit quietly and think about what memories you would like to make with your children and what you want them to remember when they are grown and look back on the holidays that they shared with you.  Frankly, this applies to any facet of life- what do you want your kids to remember when they look back and make that happen.

In regards to the holidays, don’t let all the voices pulling at you influence your dreams.  Just take a few minutes to dream about what you would like and what would be best for your children.  Now go do that.

I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a friend.  Her children were all little and she was married to her original husband who was the father of all four kids.  The stress she was feeling was that both his and her parents were divorced and remarried- and all wanted them at their respective homes for the holidays.  She was exhausted and didn’t really want to make 5-6 stops in a 48 hour period with four small children in tow.  This was not what she thought was best for her kids or herself.  When asked what I thought I offered this:

“You did not create the problem.  It was not your decision or your husband’s for either of your parent’s to get a divorce.  The adults at the time made that decision.  Now, they have to live with the consequences.  Because they chose divorce, they now have to understand that they will not have all the children and grandchildren at every holiday.  And that is not your fault or your problem to fix.”

Now, will people get mad when you choose to stay home or only visit one or two homes?  Yes.

Will they get their feelings hurt?  Probably.

Will they be harmed? No.

The main thing is that you live and establish YOUR family in the way that is best for you and them.  Your  children are only little once, don’t let it pass by missing out on what you dream of by trying to make everyone else happy.

I hope this helps someone have a less stressful holiday.  The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration- but we have to be purposeful for that to happen.

 

A Season of Transition- Are We There Yet?

tran·si·tion
noun
  1. the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.

My handsome flight medic
My handsome flight medic

This has been the definition of our lives over the past three years.  In reality, we are all in a constant state of transition as nothing stays the same.  We either move forward or we deteriorate.  However, so often the change is small and not so noticeable and then there are those times where change is monumental.

Our first monumental change was Tony retiring from Mother Francis where he had been employed as a paramedic first on the ambulance and then as a flight medic for 16 years.  Given that our oldest was only 17, this was the only thing our children remembered Tony ever doing.  This was a good change, but scary.  We started our business selling plants, shrubs, and herbs- what was then called The Farm On Holly’s Hill.  I was so glad to have him home and not working so many hours  and being so tired all the time. We could be together everyday and sleep in the same bed every night.  I have never regretted making this change not that it was easy.  We have worked very hard.

What I did not know , was that once Tony quit flying and working in the field of emergency medicine, he began suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Now, his was not so severe that he could not function but he began having nightmares and night sweats about all that he had seen and heard.  His sleep was horrible, he would hear the buzzer go off in his head and then be up all night because of the adrenaline rush that this triggered.  It was a rough year and for the most part I had no idea.  I am a heavy sleeper and he is good at keeping things from me if he thinks it will cause me to worry.  When he did tell me- after the trouble had passed- I said, “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have been nice to you on those days and not fussed so much.” To that he replied, ” I just wanted things to be normal.”  Oh, maybe I should work on “normal” a bit, huh?

I write all this, not because I want sympathy but to say that if you have a loved one working in this field be aware that they see so much more than they will ever talk about.  Just know that even if they haven’t been in combat, there has been trauma.  Tony would probably not really like me posting this because he is a very private person and keeps most stuff inside.  But he deserves a lot of credit for how long he worked helping people.  The average tenure is his field is 2 years, he stayed for 16.  This makes him a virtual legend, the old guy.

Now, we are in our third year with the business and have changed the name to Hollyberry Herb Farm.  Not only did we change the name but also our focus.  This spring was the first year that we did not sell shrubs but focused mainly on herbs.  This has been a great change, one that I have really enjoyed.  Instead of flea markets and trades days, we sell at the farmer’s market every Saturday.

Last October, our oldest moved out for school.  We moved farms in March leaving behind the house we had lived in for the past 13 years.  Savannah graduated from High school.  Both girls move into an apartment in Athens next week and will attend college there.  So, I have gone from home schooling four children to two children in a 12 month period.

What I hope to be the last monumental change for us for awhile is that Tony has been hired by Amazon.com and will be working full time off the farm again.  We both knew the season had passed for him being home full-time working only a part time job on the side.  He will be a medical representative at a major warehouse, kind of like a school nurse.  No more working in the field, he will have air conditioning, set hours, and private sector pay.  Tony has certainly earned it.  I am so happy for him.  As I write this, he has just landed in Phoenix Arizona where he will be in training for 3 weeks.  I hate having him gone for that long, but it is only temporary, an uncomfortable step to something far better.

Now, I would really like to just settle down.  Develop a rhythm with the two kiddos still at home, work my gardens and sell my herbs- that would be on my list of wishes.  We shall see.  I can’t foresee any more major changes to come.  Well, I say that when- you have a daughter that is 20 you could have some major changes popping up if some one pops the question but there are no candidates at this time so I think we are safe- for a while.

Goodness, when I read back over this realize just why I have been so tired lately.  I need to rest!  And rest I will, Sierra , I, and Jonathan will be headed to Galveston next week.  We will miss the rest of the bunch something fierce, but it will help pass the time while their dad is away.  I get happy just thinking about it.  There is nothing more soothing than the sound of waves rolling in to the beach.

What changes are you facing?

For The Love of Bunnies

jonthan and bunny

About a week ago, I rounded the house to find our dog, Duckie, sitting with purpose on the sidewalk giving me a look that said, “You need to deal with this.”  As I walked closer I spotted the littlest brown bit of furry cuteness sitting at her feet.  I picked it up and was surprised to the the baby rabbit was still alive.

Baby rabbits need help to keep warm, so is took this little guy in, wrapped him in a wash cloth and tucked it in bed with Jonathan.  Jonathan fed this baby every hour with kitten formula.  Rabbit milk is extremely hard to replicate and all the information I have found (this is not our first bottle baby rabbit) says to use kitten formula.  The rabbit, named Spock, would lick the formula off of Jonathan’s finger and snuggled up to him during the night. It was just so sweet.

Then the other morning, he woke up to find that the bunny had died.  Yes, he cried.  His heart was broke and I just hate it.  One of the hardest lessons I have to learned as a mother is to let my children grieve loss- whatever that loss may be.   My first urge is to make it better, to get a new pet, or sweep it aside as if it doesn’t matter just so I don’t have to feel heart broke as well but none of that benefits my child in the long run. Like it or not, as long as we are on this side of heaven we will experience loss.  One of the best things I can do for my children is to walk with them through it and show them how to feel real feelings and then deal with them in a healthy way.  It is hard.

I must say that the farm has provided many opportunities to deal with grief and death.  When we began this journey of homesteading, I had no idea how much death would be a part of our lives.  But, never have we experienced the joy of life in the way that we have in our everyday lives on the farm.  If we refuse things like the baby bunny to save ourselves from hurt, we would miss the days of joy and fun that was brought by the bunny.  To love is to risk hurt, but love is worth the risk.

The afternoon the Jonathan’s bunny died our kitten ran up with another baby rabbit.  What did I do?  Handed it to Jonathan.  Some might think I am crazy to provide my son with another opportunity to feel loss and hurt, but I think I provided him with another chance to love.

That rabbit died, too but before Jonathan had gotten attached.  To be honest, we have never bottle-fed a rabbit and had it live.  But hope springs eternal on a farm and we will keep trying should the opportunity present itself.

bunny

Biggest One Acre Farm In Texas

You might have noticed that my blogging has been a bit irregular lately- there is a good reason for this.  We are moving!  I love my hill, it is so picturesque- but…  Farming is hard enough when you are not battling gravity and facing the North.  This land has been maximized as best we can, but we now need something more.  We have been looking for awhile and nothing ever worked out, so we took a look at what was right in front of our face- a property that we have owned for about 6 years.

I must say that I was resistant in the beginning because I wanted more land.  But, this place is level (hallelujah!) and gets wonderful sunshine all day with a few shade trees sprinkled about.  Now, we are all excited.  We have leased land around the corner, and just a short walk away, for our goats and things are shaping up.

So, please bare with me as I move five species of animals, 3 kids, an herb farm and a business all the while our busy season is picking us steam with farmer’s markets every weekend and not to mention all of the building, tilling, and planting that is going on- whew!  But, God is good all the time and we are sailing smoothly along- but not without a lot of hard work.

Join us now as we make Hollyberry Herb Farm the biggest one acre farm in Texas!

New Farm

The view from the front porch, this entire area will be the permanent herb gardens.  Tony is preparing to cut down the cedar tree- which is now gone and the branches will be the supports for the tomato plants.  That huge pile of rocks is in the process of being moved to line the beds in the herb garden.

new greenhouse

Tony and Jonathan are putting together the new greenhouse.  As of next week, all of our seedlings will be moved into the new and much larger greenhouse.  Of course, once Easter passes, the seedlings will all be moved outside.

Jonthathan tilling

Jonathan couldn’t wait to get to run the tiller.  Of course, we have tilled so much that he is quite done with it now.  All the kids have helped, but Jonathan has really stepped up.  He is right there with me everyday moving rocks, digging holes for the new plants, just about everything.  He is very strong for an eleven year old boy and this work will surely make him stronger.

the land

new farm

These are pictures of the back of the property.  As you can see, it is a blank slate.  It is almost as though we are starting from scratch and needing to build chicken houses, fences, gardens, and animal housing, but we are not really.  We now have all the knowledge and experience that 7 years of homesteading has given us.  And that my friend, is more valuable than any barn.  So, here we go- let’s see just how much one acre can produce.  I believe we will all be surprised.