Landscaping by Lucas

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Growing up my parents kept a lovely yard–a lush green lawn, pretty flower beds, and nicely trimmed bushes. Perhaps because of this, I actually enjoy doing yard work!  I love spending time outdoors, I like physical activity, and I like the visible results you get from working in the yard.  When Jaime and I bought our first house, we did all the landscaping ourselves. The house was built in 1978 and the bushes had been growing uninhibited since then.  They were giant.  And ugly.  So we pulled them all out, built a little retaining wall, and had a nice little flower garden.

When we moved to our current house in 2008, the yard was in better shape, although it still had some issues. We worked at it the first few years, but then our sweet-but-high-maintenance little boy was born in 2011. I had serious demands on my health and my energy, and our yard beautification efforts went on the back burner.

This summer, all that changed. Lucas had read some books about flower and vegetable gardens and had seen some shows on television where kids were growing and eating fruits and veggies. We had visited our local botanical gardens in the spring. He had it in his head that we needed to plant a flower garden and a vegetable garden and would not be dissuaded. He wouldn’t stop talking about it. And really, it was a great idea!

It was the kick in the pants I needed to get back out there and make the yard look nice again.  And at three and a half, he was at the perfect age to participate and learn. We live in a shady area, and by shady, I mean lots of mature trees.  I didn’t know how a veggie garden would do. I knew I could find some flowers to grow, but most vegetables require full sun.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, and with some advice from my neighbor, I selected the west side of the house.  It’s not anywhere near full sun having large trees and the neighbor’s house to contend with, but it gets a few hours of the hottest afternoon sun.

A lot of sweat and salt (I’m a CFer after al!) went into this venture.  First Jaime and I had to attempt to fix the retaining wall in the front which had both settled and been disrupted by a large tree root. That took an entire weekend.  Then there were so many weeds that both front beds needed to be completely overturned. I had to dig out a spot on the side of the house for the veggies and make a border and fence. I went to the city recycle center and shoveled loads of compost and wood chips, by myself, to keep costs down. Jaime would have gladly helped, but he was busy with soccer and the clock was ticking for getting plants into the ground. (Okay, maybe not gladly…he doesn’t share my love of yard work.  But he would have helped since he loves me!)

Oops, I lied.  Lucas came with me to get the wood chips and compost.  Here was one of our loads.  He enjoyed watching me, from the comfort of the car, huff and puff and sweat.

Oops, I lied. Lucas came with me to get the wood chips and compost. Here was one of our loads. He enjoyed watching me (from the comfort of the car) huff and puff and sweat.

It was a great deal of work, but taking on this project got me on the road to good health this summer.  Coming out of an awful winter healthwise, it felt so wonderful and healing to spend time outdoors, digging, shoveling, hauling, planting–panting too, but making visible progress. It felt wonderful to have the strength to work again, and cleansing to breathe deeply in the sweet summer air. Working outdoors helped me to regain stamina and gave me so much satisfaction after spending months behind closed doors unable to do much other than fight against illness.

The flowers and veggies both took off and are doing great. Lucas is one happy camper! He helps me water the garden every day and is happily eating the produce, which is a big deal for a picky eater.  He will munch a little lettuce right out of the garden and has been enjoying kale chips on a regular basis. He likes to pick lettuce and kale and wash it himself, in “his” bathroom without any supervision from Mom. Thankfully it only took me one time to figure out the funny taste was the hand soap he was using 🙂 The cucumbers are ready now and the beans and tomatoes will be ready soon so I’m hoping he will gladly eat those as well. There are carrots, bell peppers and squash that are still growing. I put in a few strawberry plants which are multiplying, and I hope we will get berries on them next year.

From baby garden...

From baby garden…

...to big garden!

…to big garden!

Our beautiful flowers.

Our beautiful flowers.

Veggies!

Veggies!

Watering (with the orange bucket, naturally).

Watering (with an orange bucket, naturally).

Cucumbers!

Cucumbers!

It’s been a rewarding experience for all of us, and we’ve learned a lot. It feels great to grow and eat our own food.  I’m already scheming ways to make the garden larger next summer. Lucas insists that we have potato chips and string cheese growing in our garden as these are his favorite foods. With that in mind, maybe we’ll try potatoes next year. But we just don’t have enough room for a cow.

CF = Coffee Fanatic

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Disclaimer: No child *actually* drank coffee during the writing of this blog post.

Hmmm, coffee.  I love it.  I have always enjoyed coffee, but ever since Lucas reached the perpetual motion stage, I have been drinking it religiously.  I need something to help me keep up with that kid.  Jaime recently accused me (on Facebook!) of being a coffee addict.  It had something to do with this headache I couldn’t get rid of until I had a cup.  I would prefer to categorize myself at a coffee enthusiast.  Maybe even a coffee fanatic.  But surely not a coffee addict…

Although I love hot coffee, I don’t need any extra heat in my life during the summer.  So lately I’ve been making a frappuccino type of coffee drink that I created with three simple ingredients: coffee, coconut milk, and raw honey. It’s very tasty, refreshing, and good for you.

Don’t put a dried flower in your coffee drink; I just thought it made the picture pretty.

Coffee has some specific cystic fibrosis related health benefits.  It is extremely high in antioxidants which boost the immune system.  The caffeine in coffee is a natural bronchodilator (a substance that helps open up the airways and increase airflow in the lungs).  Coffee may also protect against diabetes which is a common complication for CFers, especially for those of us over 30.  Although there haven’t been any recent studies, I am pretty sure consuming coffee reduces the number of Mommy Tantrums (and helps moms deal with toddler tantrums).

Honey is a healthy alternative to sugar.  It has vitamins and minerals and is high in antioxidants.  Regular sugar causes inflammation but honey fights against it.  It is antibacterial and has shown to be effective against both staph and pseudomonas which are common CF colonizers.  Many people claim that regular consumption of local raw honey helps immunize against seasonal allergies.  Honey is also very soothing to the throat which is nice for those of us who cough a lot.

The finished product.

The finished product.

To make this drink, simply combine eight ounces of freshly brewed coffee (cooled to room temperature) with four ounces of coconut milk.  Then stir in about a tablespoon of honey.  It will take a bit of stirring before the honey dissolves.  If that bothers you and you don’t mind extra dishes, you can make it in a blender.  When you’re done, pour it into a pretty glass; it tastes even better that way.  For best results, enjoy first thing in the morning.  And after lunch.  And maybe once more before dinner…

Blue Skies

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Summer weather has finally arrived here in Michigan!  I say finally because it has been a cool spring and this past winter was extremely cold and snowy.  We got a record breaking 90.3 inches of snow.  I don’t know when I’ve been so eager for warm weather!

Summer is my favorite season. I love it because I enjoy all the outdoor activities–vacationing at a lake, splashing in pools, taking walks on beaches, strolling in the neighborhood with my boys after dinner.  I love the feeling of warm sun and the brilliance of clear blue skies.  I love the long days and sound of crickets chirping at night.

Lucas loves to be outside too.  He likes parks, playgrounds, and wandering around the neighborhood.  He likes to tromp through the woods, stomp in puddles and examine insects.  He enjoys lazy walks downtown.  He loves water and finally, this past weekend, the pool opened!  We spent a few hours there on Sunday and it was heavenly.

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imageDuring that wonderful afternoon with my boys, I was reminded of one of my favorite Bible passages:

“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-25

With the warm sun shining down on me, spending a relaxed afternoon with my little family, I felt so blessed.  God has turned His face toward me, He has given me peace, He has kept me through trials and triumphs, and He has been so very gracious to me.

I’m thankful for my life with all its blessings and all its challenges.  Sometimes the blessings and challenges are so intertwined they can’t be separated.  I love the days when the skies are blue, the breeze is warm, and everything is going smoothly.  But somehow I don’t think the blue would be so brilliant if I didn’t also experience the storms, the cold winters, the times of struggle and hardship.  God doesn’t promise blue skies every day.  But He promises to never leave me and never forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6).  He gives me strength and courage.  It is enough to know I am loved and cherished by the Maker of the heavens and earth; by the Artist who fashioned those beautiful blue skies.