...with a husband and 5 sons, I am truly outnumbered....stories and thoughts on life from a mom in a houseful of little men!

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Moving Forward

One thing that's always true about life, I've found, is that even when it feels we're at a standstill or living in the "in-between", things are always changing. We're moving forward. The same is true with Boyland. It's growing at unimaginable pace and in ways I could never have fathomed. And so, it's time to move forward into a new blog stage as well.

We've moved to www.plantedbytheriver.water.blog. I hope you'll join us there and somehow be encouraged as you move forward into your own seasons and times and places.

Friday, August 04, 2017


Four boys and one mom headed up the driveway, heat dissipating from the gravel and wildfire haze in the air.  We dug through dusty totes, and as we found the ones we were looking for, we brandished them back down to the house.  Smacking one a few times to relieve it of dust, I unzipped the large canvas duffle and began dispersing its contents upon a shady place on the ground.

"I miss the RV", 15-year-old man-child remarked, in his witty, deadpan, tongue-in-cheek way that we all love.  A few chuckles erupted from our small crowd and we set to work, setting up the family tent for the first time since that man-child was a wee boy.

Unfurling the tent, something sprayed out which literally made my heart skip a beat.  I became immediately aware of the familiar, hollow space in my gut, which has lessened from time to time but definitely has not dissipated like the heat from the gravel on this sultry 95 degree day.

Sand from the Little Susitna riverbed.

It had remained for all these years, tucked away in crawl space and moving vans and garages…and when those tiny fragments of my beloved homeland met my eyes, so did the tears.  It's amazing the love God can give for a place.  So deep-seeded that no matter where we find ourselves, it is carried along with us, like His presence.  But then again, His name is Love.

So often we find ourselves in the in-between.  That space from which we can still so easily look back with love and longing, and yet we can also strain to see ahead that place in life we are hoping for yet seems so out of reach.
We miss what was, and we want what will be.  We know we must move forward, so we pray and we hope and we muster up all our strength and then realize it's not enough…so we go to the Wellspring and ask Him for more.  And then we wonder why things just don't seem to be working out.  Why our surroundings aren't right.  Why the relationships don't seem to be falling into place.  Why we are plagued with so many annoyances.  Why the job won't come.
Why He isn't relieving the physical symptoms which have surfaced due to

so.  much.  stress.  for.  so.  long.

Why we just aren't settled.  We wonder these things, and wonder if they ever will be.  And it's so hard to be in this in-between, and to seek Him continually, and to continually hear, "You'll see.  Be still, and know that I am God."

"Be still and know that I am God"

Be still…when there seems to be no forward movement.  Be still…when it all seems to be falling into place for everyone but you.  Be still…as the number of jobs applied for over seven months continue to mount.  Be still…while your kids grow like wildfire and you feel desperate to be settled while they're all still home with you.  Be still…in your two-bedroom house.  Be still…while housing market skyrockets.  Be still…when panic attacks well up and you can't quell them.  Be still.  Be still.

That is the answer.  We know this, and yet to put it into practice?  Not so easy.  Yet perhaps when we find ourselves "in-between", that is the most fertile ground for this lesson to grow.  It's easy to trust when things are going easily and smoothly.  Easy to "be still" during the honeymoon of a big exciting life change.  But when time goes on and on and on and we hit  the real grit, will we "be still" then?  Will we trust He has our best good in mind…even when it doesn't match our dreams.  When the forward motion seems to have lost momentum.  When nothing makes sense.  When the ground seems fallow.

Our present home was in dire need of landscaping.  Of any sort of green.  The elderly couple who lived here previously had embraced low-maintenance, and rocks are low-maintenance.  So after the snow said farewell this past spring, we chose one small section of yard and began hauling rocks out, load by load.  We dug out dead shrubs, made space for things to grow.  Placed landscape edging to provide the boundaries of the new green growth we hoped for.  Had a load of soil delivered.  Spread it by hand.  When the soil was prepared, we seeded.  And watered.  And hoped.  For two days, that is, until a massive, freak storm moved in and we watched all our hard work careen down into the driveway in torrents of rain.

We reseeded, and began watering, 6-8 times per day to keep up with the sweltering heat made even more swelteringly by all the ROCK around here.

Nothing grew.

Our 16-year-old stared at the ground one day, then broke the silence with, "I'm really beginning to resent this yard project.  It just won't grow….just like anything here…it's just so hard."  Do you ever experience someone putting into words, exactly what is in your heart?  Yeah, me too.
So we went through and tediously pulled out all the weeds that had sprung up.  Hoed up the compacted soil that the hard rain had beat down.  Mixed in new peet moss to replace that which the torrents had washed away.  Reseeded.  Applied new seedling fertilizer.  With hope, began watering again, during the very hottest part of the summer.  And you know what?  It has taken much time, diligent watering and weeding, and subsequent seeding.

But it's growing.
Finally we can see the momentum building.  And it is beautiful.

We're being tended like this, and so much more diligently and tenderly, by the Gardener.  He knows the boundaries we need for this present time.  He is breaking up our hard places.  He is sowing and nurturing.  When the storms come and the lack of our strength is revealed, He is patiently reseeding. We're in His good care, and though at this time of in-between we aren't readily seeing the growth, it is there, if only hidden in tiny seeds beneath the surface of fertile soil.  The fertile soil of the "in-between".

This is God's will for us right now.  Evidenced by the fact that this is what is.  It won't  always be like this, but right now it is.  And it's my choice, my responsibility, to live fully in this time.  To spurn the temptation to put life on hold until things fall into place.  Grow a garden, if even a small one.  Get the chickens I've been dreaming of having for ten years.  Possess the land He's given us now.  Be thankful for what was.  Look forward to what will be.  But live fully now.

Be still and know.

Monday, May 23, 2016


These are the days which good and hard weave in and out of.  There are so many things and moments that are easy to give thanks for.
Such as first glimpses of Baby...
…and fresh spring babies in the sunshine.
And there are things and moments that hurt and are hard and it's pure sacrifice to murmur our thanks for those things.
Such as a returned dossier from Addis Ababa...
…and painful consequences
We hold on to the hope that He's making something unexpectedly, extra-beautiful on this tapestry, even though we may not see it yet.

We're (still) in a season of change and unrest, and have been for quite some time now.  Our family is not the same as we were two years ago.  There's a new heartbeat among us.  Boys are taller and have made even bigger leaps in their heart-growth.  Along with those victories, they also face new challenges. We parents have changed too, both outwardly and inwardly.  The pressures of moving and job change and unsettledness have produced both good fruit, and also caused the ugly to rise to the top.

Sometimes recently I've remarked, "I think I like the girl from a few years back better.  I'm not the same person now that I was then.  In fact, I'm not sure I can remember her."  And so gently, like the murmurings of this Western wind through quaking Aspen leaves, I have heard Him whisper, "You're not the same.  How can I make you more like Me if you stay the same?"  A glimpse of hope has filled my heart, and yet still this hurt.  This fatigue.  This wanting of the hard to be over.

It's been a particularly difficult week.  I don't share this to be negative, but to be real.  Maybe you relate?

Morning sickness, nasty colds, bee stings, a boy nearly slicing off the tip of his thumb, wisdom teeth removal…these sort of things have filled our days recently.  All the while, there is regular life and work and lessons and housekeeping for our family of eight, the all-consuming rhythm-keeping of days.  Then there are the deeper, pressing matters, such as finding that permanent landing place.  Where is the time or energy for that sort of thing?

One particular day found us scraping grotesque remains off the garage floor, over and over again, as baby birds plunged to their deaths to the concrete.  We had heard them the previous two weeks or so, faint little cheep-a-cheeping at first.  Their little cries gradually became louder and we smiled each time we stepped into the garage and heard the evidence of their growth.  What a sad end to the mama's laboring of caring for those little birds. Over the course of two days, the cheeping lessened and lessened some more until all we heard was one.  It, too, fell as we watched, only this one landed on the workbench.

The boy-version-of-animal-lover-me, ran to scoop up the fragile little frame before it toppled from workbench to concrete.

"I'll name him Bright Hope," he said.  All day he played the role of papa to that little bird.  Tenderly he fed him bits of suet and provided a soft place to rest.

The bird still died later that day, but it has a name and a place marked by an upright stone adorned with transplanted Forget-Me-Nots and scattered rose petals.

I feel sort of like I'm falling lately.  "Slipping", I call it.  And so in some sad, strange way I took it personal as I watched, one-by-one, those little birds fall.  Thankfully though, I have more in common with the last little one, which instead of meeting concrete, met a buffered landing place and warm hands to nurture it along.  It had a name.  It was known.  And loved.  And I am, too.  You are too, by the way.

I'm loved even when my ugly rises to the top with all this pressure.  I'm known by name, a name written on His hand.  So when He speaks to me, "Forward", I'll keep trudging forward.  Because I believe through all this hard stuff something beautiful is being woven together.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Missing the Littler and Simpler

So this week we find ourselves with a new teenager, which brings the total to two teenagers in the house, whom I'm pretty sure I just birthed last week.
I'm happy and sad.  I'm so proud of our crew and so encouraged by how I see God working in their hearts and growing them into the men He has planned for them to be.
But I'm sad, too, because though I love their big-ness, I surely miss their little-ness.  It doesn't help that we no longer have a diaper-wearer in the house.  This too is a big "Praise Jesus" intermingled with tears.  There's no hiding it.  Our family is evolving. Growing.  Things in this life simply don't stay the same for long.
I remember so clearly that evening ten years ago, sitting with a small group of women listening to a dear and wise mentor share words of encouragement.  Lynda looked us square in the eyes (how did she look at every. one. of us at the same time?) and she said in essence, "You girls think life is always gonna be like this.  You married the guy.  You had the babies.  You're living that dream.  It's hard and all-consuming, but I'm telling you: it's not always going to be like this.  In no time, it will be over.  This is only the smallest snippet of time."  Her point, was to live it fully.  To appreciate all the details.  To know that it is a gift.  To know that it will soon change.  To know we can't get it back.
How wise and true her words were.  I knew it on that evening, and I know it now.  Only now I'm seeing it happen with my own eyes.  Time slipping through my fingers, hour after day after week after month after year.  Measured in five small sons who aren't so small anymore.
With Monday's celebration of thirteen years of dearly-loved Noah, I find myself thinking back to the "little years."  The years when they all basically enjoyed the same things.  I could be a super-hero simply by carving out a few extra minutes to drop by the playground on the way home from running errands with them.  They would actually all still enjoy that now, too, but it's…different.

It's different in the same way they will all lay on the floor building a matchbox car track with their four-year-old brother…and though they're all having fun, they are having different sorts of fun.
 The same way I can still feed them good foods and fill them, but it takes A LOT more food, which means the foods need to be simple and must be bought in BULK.  
Different, in that we can all read the Jesus Bible Storybook at breakfast together and enjoy it, but I still need to be sure my older ones are being fed spiritually in deeper ways.

Different.  Deeper.  Fuller.  Yes.

but sometimes I miss the littler.  simpler.

There's no stopping it.  So what's this mama to do when it makes me happy and sad and desperate and proud all at once?  Lift my chin to the sky and whisper "thanks" continually.  Pray unceasingly for these little men to grow in grace and wisdom and love of truth.  Enjoy each and every moment.  Let some not-so-important stuff slide.  Let lots of stuff go, in order to look deeply into bright blue eyes as they tell me for the six-hundredth time  about what's happening in the latest Axis & Allies board game, realizing that this is holy work being done.  It's telling an eternal soul that they are loved and important.  That they can come to me later with the bigger things, because I bothered to care about the small things.

So I guess, there still is  littler.  simpler.  stuff going on here.  It's just that those things take a different form than five small bodies eagerly gathered around a Thomas the Train track.  This smaller stuff is giving way to the deeper, fuller, big stuff.  The stuff that will continue to come in bulk amounts (along with food orders) as we blessedly walk through the coming count-down of summers left before we must begin to let them fly.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It Was Not What I Expected

Nothing about the wedding day was as I had dreamed it.  I had daydreamed, starry-eyed, during those years of tanned-skin, wild-haired, bare-footed girlhood, swinging on a farmyard swing.  I had dreamed and planned away, but this was not the day I had pictured.  Those dreams included a flowing, white gown and little flowers tucked in my unruly, romantic hair.  They included a tuxedo for my Handsome, along with flowers and more flowers beside a lake…with dappled sunshine giving way to a candlelight evening.  I pictured a medium-sized gathering of faces of loved-ones, and they all wore smiles.  The dream day was crowned with pure joy and well-wishes, and topped off with a humble honeymoon escape to somewhere lovely and simple and adventurous.

But as I stood awkwardly at the back of the decor-less, mostly-unfamiliar, silent church, none of those dreams had come to pass.  I wore a cheap dress, off the rack.  I straightened the tie of my Handsome for the outfit we had pieced together.  We walked up to the altar, us and my beloved childhood pastor, and three witnesses.  And we promised our lives away to each other before God.

We had no idea what we were doing.
 On that day, the things that were absent…the things of my dreams…were just that.  They were things.  And on that day, they mostly didn't matter to me.  I had decided they didn't matter.  Because the bottom line was that those things were not attainable at that time, and all I really wanted to do was to marry the man standing there with me.  And I wanted to marry him right then.
 Looking back, even amidst some regrets of moving forward with such understated plans…because there are regrets over not safe-keeping our future memories with more than a couple "snapshots" of a day that comes 'round one time and one time only…but looking back, even though I have mourned the loss of that girlhood dream, I realize that perhaps the way it unfolded was a more fitting beginning for us.

This marriage adventure.  The thing you have no idea about until you're in the beauty and blood and guts of it.  Because, really, marriage is never what you dream it will be like either.  At least that's my experience, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.  For sure there is at least one other person (and I happen to live with him) who would agree!  Still there are all these things that nobody ever tells you to expect about married life.  Or, maybe they do tell you, whether by words or living example, but it all just passes over your heads like a series of swift arrows shot by Cupid.

Nobody tells you how hard it is to try and live unselfishly.  You don't know that after the euphoria wears off in those early days, you may have a personal identity crisis as you change all your ID cards.  Furthermore, living for two really doesn't seem less expensive than living for one, and it really stinks to pay your bills and have fifteen dollars left for groceries for the next two weeks.  It puts a real hammer down on the romance, if you will.  You do not realize at the time, that you're marrying a sinner.  And you certainly, do not realize at the time, that he is marrying the worst sinner of all.  But time tells.  Time shows.  And when you think you're plugging along fairly well, you'll get whacked upside both your heads and have to learn it all over again at a deeper level.

In the painful moments, in the impossible and hopeless moments, whether caused by you or him or some other outside force…nobody tells you that you may feel a fleeting desire to run away.  Maybe they didn't tell you,

but HE has told us,

that if you stop ranting about why you and your way is right and take the time listen carefully, sometimes even needing to strain to hear it, the One who is holding it all together anyway is whispering a way He's provided out, "so that you can stand up under it."  The way out is not out of your marriage.  The way out is to step out of your selfish self.  The way out is to stop placing impossible expectations upon your marriage and life and spouse and self, and to instead gaze up into the only One who fulfills every dream and longing of our hearts.  And this painful, hard, yet beautiful thing needs to be done over and over and over again.  Refining thing, this marriage adventure.

There are other things nobody tells you, such as how incredible it is to have someone by our side whom you know will stick by you no matter what, because he has done so for 21 years.  Furthermore,  that you will do the same for him, because you, too, have a 21-year track record.  You will choose to do this, even when you don't like each other.  Because that, too, happens sometimes, and I'm sure nobody told us that either!  Or if they did, we didn't believe them.  Still the truth remains--nothing compares to the comfort of something constant in a constantly-changing world.

Finally, they don't tell you that at some point, you will understand you don't have to see everything eye-to-eye with this person in order to truly love-as-an-action love him and cherish him and the life you've built together.  How simple it would be if we saw everything the way I see it the same.  But, tell me.  Where's the challenge in that?

So maybe beginning this marriage adventure with less than the dream wedding really was a more realistic beginning anyway.  To begin with a fairytale would have created quite a catastrophe perhaps, when we realized marriage was much harder and much more wonderful in unexpected ways than I ever could have imagined as I swung my skinny, tan legs high up on that farmyard swing so many years ago.  Perhaps it really was best to fly by our seats with good intentions and hopes for a bright future, with just a couple of special touches and a handful of people who truly loved us standing by.  Or perhaps, it has just been…pure….grace.

Whatever the case, thank you for this incredible, adventurous ride, Mr. Dassow.

For all those things that we missed in the beginning, we did get one thing right--to choose to stand by each other no matter what.

With five states, five sons, adoption hopes, dreams both realized and dashed, and so many challenges and hardships and so much grace and goodness under our belts, I just can't imagine doing it all with anyone else.

I cherish you…and nobody could have told me that I'd feel like I do after twenty-one years.  It really is so much better than I imagined, just in a completely different way.

Monday, September 21, 2015

One Choice Has Created White Space {Striving to Unplug, Part 2}

So as I eluded to in my last post, some additional boundaries are going into place with regard to my smart phone use.  I am choosing to make this one choice now, in order to save myself the energy of making a hundred little choices throughout each day, to decide what is better for that moment.  To make this one choice now will add some peace and some white space to my days.  Just the thought of that is a breath of fresh air to my soul.

For me, the boundaries look this simple:

1) Plug my phone into the charger each evening.

2) Unplug phone and move it onto the kitchen counter with my old-fashioned, hand-held phone         receiver plugged into it.  It will be used only to answer or make real phone calls.

3) At 3:00 or so, I will check and answer messages, read blog posts, research on-line, check social media for up to 1/2 hour.

4) After boys are tucked into bed at night, I will do the above for up to 15 minutes before plugging it back into the charger and then doing something more worthwhile.

After doing this for just a few days, I am amazed at the time this has freed up for me.  I don't have to decide umpteen times per day whether or not I should check this-or-that, because if it's not during my designated phone times, the answer is automatically "no".  There has been a certain peace in my mind at having so much less distraction.  It frees me up to be more creative.  I feel more compelled to do things I love more often.  Such as write!  and read!
I find that I'm actually much more productive too, now that I leave my phone-use for particular time slots.  On any given day, there may be things I've thought of that I want to research on-line, for example.  I'm making it a habit to just jot those things down on a slip of paper throughout the day.  When phone time arrives, I can look those items up quickly, all in a full swoop.

I'm a very social and relational person.  I love people.  My relationships are precious to me, so I love to correspond and connect with others.  With my phone-use boundaries finding a welcomed place in my life,  I am freed up to do so in ways that feel more special and meaningful.  Rather than spending too much time mindlessly scrolling through a social media feed clicking "like", I feel more inclined toward sitting down and writing out a hand-written notecard or letter to a loved one.  Even typing a letter on my computer feels more intentional.  I love walking out to the mailbox row to send these little tokens of affection on their way.  I love to use that short time to breathe deep, enjoy the beauty outside, and to pray for the recipients.

Sometimes I use my shorter phone time to text a friend to arrange a time for a phone catch-up.  We can cover a lot more meaningful ground on the phone than on short blips on social media or texting.

I also find that I feel more energy for creativity when it comes to relationships.  It doesn't take but a few minutes to write a quick note and pop it into a mailer with an inexpensive gift for a friend.  From time to time, I see or find something small that just makes me think of a certain person.  It's so fun to act on these impulses rather than to just say to myself, "If I had the time, I'd send that for a surprise."  It makes me smile for days to think of that person opening up the mailbox to find some "fun mail."  Fun mail is in a serious shortage these days.

Now don't get me wrong.  I'm not anti-smart phone, nor anti-social media, nor anti-text messaging.  These things have their place, and you'll still see me "liking" and commenting, posting my own things, and texting with friends.  What I'm sharing with you, however, is that for me, those things are finding again the proper place in my life.  And with that comes




in my days.  Space and time that is blank and ready to be colored with magic markers, watercolors, or whatever best-opportunities of the moment.  It's incredible the difference in mental clarity I experience with these simple boundaries in place.  It's too good not to share with you, in hopes it will inspire you to create or renew your own techno boundaries.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

I Cried When He Bought Me an iPhone, {Striving to Unplug, Part One}

Yeah, seriously….I did.

For years I carried around my trusty flip-phone.  Remember those?  Mine was little and gray, and it fit perfectly in my palm.  When I opened it up, the screen was clear and simple, with digital numbers and letters.  No color, no bells or whistles, just pure function.  I liked how I could smooth over the tiny screen with my finger and it was instantly tidy.

But the best part about it? The best part about my little flip-phone, was that I hardly ever used it.  It fit neatly in my purse, and that was where it always was, unless I was using it for a short, pointed phone call, or it was plugged into the car charger.  In it's later days, the charger was where it stayed actually, because it would no longer hold a charge for long.  And then suddenly, it wouldn't hold a charge at all.  That day came, unfortunately, while I was running errands in Anchorage, in bad weather, with all five boys and we had car trouble.

My wonderful husband had been asking me for several months if I wanted a smart phone.  He thought it would be nice for me to have a more reliable phone.  He thought I'd appreciate the ability to text, and that I'd like to look things up on-line from time to time.  After brief consideration...ok, after barely finishing listening to him speak, I told him I didn't want one.  He was convinced that I was just being polite, so he sweetly announced one day he would like to buy me a smart phone.  I thanked him, but asserted that I really didn't want one.   I assured him that despite what the ladies at the office thought, I wasn't being polite, and that I'd prefer to put that additional amount per month into our adoption fund.  At that, he realized I really didn't want one, and that was the end of the conversation. That is, until the afore-mentioned day my little flip-phone gave up the ghost and there was no resurrecting her…not even after searching for parts through a four-foot tall, cardboard box full of old discards at the telecom office.

That day, my concerned husband came home with my new iPhone.  He handed it to me and said, "I bought you this, and I want you to use it."  And I cried, but said, "ok…thanks."

Why didn't I want this clever little piece of technology?  Well, I think mostly because inside I knew that it could become problematic for me.  I had been content with my outdated flip-phone, and I suspected this little gadget could complicate my life more than it helped.  I felt annoyed when I saw so much attention being paid to smart phones.  Though I hadn't given it much detailed thought, I had a notion that it would become just as big of a distraction for me as I witnessed it being for others.  And really, all things considered, I was right.

Now, let me just say, that my phone really has been a handy tool.

It enables me to have a camera handy almost all the time.

It enables me to keep in close contact with Tony, even if he's out in his office working.

With it, I can look up things online at any whim.

It has allowed me to stay closely up-to-date with far-away friends and family through messaging and social media.

All these things have been steadily possible throughout my days with my smart phone, because you see, at first though it sat neatly in my purse like my old flip-phone, it soon found a place in my jeans pocket.  On my person.  Most of the time.  Talk about a distraction!

There are times that I cringe at my response to my littles, "Just a minute…Mommy's working on the phone."  This makes me cringe even though during those times, I really am accomplishing necessary work.  All in all, I feel like I've done a good job of remaining fully-present with my people, and not forsaking face-to-face time for screen time.  However, I also find that lately I am constantly dealing with the pull or temptation to check this message or that voice mail, to email so-and-so, or to check the price of such-and-such online.   I'm often inclined to check the weather here or where my family and friends live, or the wildfire update, or to research prospective new chiropractic clinics.  You see?  In essence, it has created a complicated distraction in my life, and quite frankly, I have enough complication and distraction in my life without my phone vying for my attention.  I don't want to put the constant effort into choosing to ignore this distraction in order to choose what is better.  So some additional boundaries are going into place.  In short, this mama needs some room to breathe.  Just as I continually need wide-open spaces physically, I also need it for my mind and soul.