Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stuff I love in the garden

Our garden is confused by the mild February temperatures we've been having and it's all waking up. It's a weird feeling, like when my little ones trudge downstairs before sunrise as Bruder is leaving for seminary. "Go back to sleep! It's not time yet."

Hopefully the plants can handle their early wake-up call with more grace than Rose and Cholita. As the plants have been yawning and stretching, I've thought about how much I look forward to seeing them every year. There are many perennials that I love, but it's the trees and vines that tend to be the stars of the show in my book. These are photos from last year, just a few of my sentimental favorites:

Our Climbing Hydrangea

The King of Vines it's been called, and that may well be the case, but it's not a plant for the impatient gardener. Ours has been in the ground for four years now and despite its otherwise healthy nature, has yet to flower. I've read that it can take anywhere from 3-10 years, so maybe this summer. I certainly hope so. A decade seems a bit excessive, don't you think?

The Akebono Cherry Tree
This tree is still a baby really, and hasn't had much time to be impressive yet. When we first moved into our house there was a flagpole here. I liked it, but I was a little fuzzy on flag protocol and probably kept the flag up when it should have been down and down when it should have been up. So when the pole blew over in a wind storm, I wasn't devastated. Lyle was away in Las Vegas at a convention, staying in the hotel shaped like a pyramid, and I surprised him with the tree when he got back. During its second year, one side totally died back, but despite adversity, it seems to be rallying, a trait I admire in people as well as trees.

The Cecile Brunner Climbing Rose

This vine is really too new for me to say if I love it or not. It's known as the "sweetheart rose", and what I do love about it is the image I have of Lyle and I wearing headlamps planting it at night. We tend to jump into projects when the urge strikes, timing or lack of light be darned. As a matter of fact, the concrete circle around the cherry tree in the last photo was also done spur-of-the-moment. It was a much bigger project than planting a rose bush and by the end, I was holding a flashlight in each hand so that Lyle could stamp the concrete. I couldn't even tell you what our children ate for dinner that night, I assume they found something.

Autumn Sunset Climbing Rose

This is Rose's rose since it's always in full bloom on her birthday. It's probably the most "wow" thing we have in our garden and is such a confidence builder. I don't particularly like hybrid tea roses since I haven't had much success with them, but the climbers and I seem to get along just fine. I love that the buds of this rose are the exact red color of our front door and then open into a beautiful orange color that slowly fades to yellow. Very versatile.

I have many more favorites, but it's late and the to-do list for tomorrow is long. Hope you have some happy things coming alive in your garden too.

From under the mosquito net

On Saturday we'd just said a prayer over our spaghetti lunch, asking that Lyle and Lucy be protected while they're far away from us, when the phone rang. Lyle said, "Just lying here under my mosquito net, thinking about all of you."

They're alive and well, that's the gist I got from the brief conversation; Lyle was on a borrowed satellite phone. He said that everything in the landscape is in shades of brown and red, that he went on a ten-mile run that morning, that the mayor of the town was letting them use a school as their temporary dental clinic, and that Lucy was energized and making friends.

It was too short, with kids yelling that they needed to say hi too. There were so many things I wanted to ask him, but no time. Before they left on their trip, I told Lucy that I was counting on her to write in her journal everyday and take as many pictures as her memory card could handle--I believe it's well over a thousand. I so wish they had internet access. My Lucy loves to wax poetic and I know I'll be able to see the African sunsets through her journals.

Lyle would be proud of the work we've done since they've been gone. I love the stories of early pioneer wives whose husbands go off into the mission field and come home months or years later to see their farms thriving and root cellars full. When asked by his son if he'd seen miracles on his mission, one father answered, "The greatest miracle I've ever seen is your mother." Service tends to be my love language, so when I'm missing Lyle, I obsess over long to-do lists. He does the same thing during the rare occasions when I'm away. Years ago when I went on a quick trip to Chicago, I came home to new planter beds, a porch swing still smelling of sawdust, and a freshly seeded lawn. There were 26 messages on our neglected answering machine. For those few days, he did nothing but work, hardly even sleeping, putting the last tool away as I was pulling in the driveway. That's the type of man I married.

He'd be proud of his son too. I have to wonder if he had a little sit-down talk with Bruder before he left. The "you are the man of the house now" type of talk, because Bruder has been particularly helpful and so patient with his little sisters. He spoke in church on Sunday, finished twelve plaques for younger scouts who earn their Arrow of Light awards, and has diligently done his homework with a minimum of nagging from his mother.

Rose has made more than one "surprise" for her big sister and has an elaborate scenario all laid out for their homecoming. It's like a detailed script, so I hope our poor unknowing travelers say the right things, enter the proper rooms at the proper times, and notice the things they're supposed to notice. Rose is a fairly unyielding director.

Cholita asked numerous times those first two days, "Isn't it time to pick up Lucy from school yet?" When it sunk in that they were in Africa, she moaned, "Oh, I'll miss them forever!" Obviously we're unaccustomed to long absences.

The sun is fully up now and my to-do list is calling. Nearly every one of our planting beds is now ready for spring, no small task in our yard. With Lyle throwing himself into a good work half a world away, any pioneer wife worth her weight can invest a little sweat into the homefront.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bon Voyage

Doesn't that sound like a send-off for people going on a cruise? It makes me think of confetti and anchors and boat whistles. I'm not sure if it really fits with African travel. Maybe Hakuna matata. That's the only thing that comes to mind, and it's a good message for me because if "matata" are worries, I'll admit that I'm a bit of a matata-er when it comes to my family and international travel.

This morning I noticed that Lyle had forgotten the triple-A batteries I bought him yesterday. I can't remember what he said he needed them for, but hopefully it's nothing too critical. Like maybe his dental drill.

I see that they did remember to take the anti-malarial meds that were on the counter. If they'd forgotten those, I'd be knee deep in matatas.

Does Lucy look tired? She should; it was 3:30 AM.

But she was her chipper self when it was time to walk out the door.

Someone else insisted on getting up to see them off
and let's just say she was not so chipper.

We miss them already.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Two Very Different Ferry Boat Rides

One year ago, when I snapped this photo of Cholita and her dad, my emotions were so close to the surface. We were on our way to Seattle for Cholita's first PEG interferon shot. The odds of success were so low and we knew she'd feel sick. She was in such a great mood that morning, so trusting and happy, that I almost called the whole thing off right then and there.

Cholita asked if she could use my camera and not surprisingly, she zoomed down on her feisty red shoes, making us laugh. If anyone could beat the odds, this was the girl to do it.

Today, almost exactly a year later, we were once again on the ferry boat. Once again we were going to see her doctor. And like a year ago, my emotions were close to the surface; this time for a very different reason. She'd finished her treatment, with courage and bravery, and just last week we'd learned the final result. It worked. She beat the odds.

When the doctor walked into the room today, she threw her clipboard down on the exam table and DANCED! I asked her if she was surprised and she said that 'surprised' didn't even begin to describe her feelings when she saw Cholita's labs. "Completely stunned."

As we were leaving, she said, "You have a truly amazing little girl."

We've always known it.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Two Weeks

Actually two weeks from yesterday, but who's counting.

Thirteen days until Lyle takes my big girl all the way to Senegal.

It will be amazing, I'm sure, on so many fronts. She'll be working side by side with her dad, providing dental care to a population in desperate need. I know it will strengthen the special bond she already has with her father, and I know her compassion and love for mankind will grow ten-fold.

But man, will the rest of miss her here at home.

She's Bruder's confidante.

Rose's favorite playmate and idol of all that is "teenage girl".

And Cholita's second mother. The fun one.

Lucy frequently plans and carries out elaborate "spa nights" for her little sisters. She has late-night talks and marathon chess tournaments with her brother. She asks me the most wonderful questions like, "What can I do to help?"

And we're going to miss her like crazy.

Lyle, keep one hand on your dental drill and the other on our one-of-a-kind Lucy.
Bring her back safe and sound.