Sharing Gifts

As I scrolled through a preview of the photos in this post, I thought to myself, “Wow! All seven kids are in this post! That doesn’t usually happen.” Then I remembered that actually, there are eight of them. The weather seems like it has warmed up for good, and everyone is spending lots of time outdoors. The goats’ fence was completed, and a gate hung. Jonny is almost finished with his small chicken coop and we got it set up to house our chicks. Next up, he’ll work on our large portable coop. I’ve been working on spring playsilks, perfect for lining Easter baskets! I’ve also dyed a bit of yarn and I’ll be updating my shop on Friday, March 31st at 11 a.m. EST with the yarn, playsilks, and goat milk soap!

Keats and Gabe were both confirmed over the weekend. Jonny and I led their confirmation team through all the required service projects over the past year and a half, and we are pleased and somewhat relieved that the boys passed this milestone!

All three of our older boys attended a youth group over the weekend for the first time. To say that they didn’t like it would be an understatement. Afterwards, Seth shared with me all the reasons he’d rather not go back, convinced that it isn’t going to benefit him or his brothers. Today, in discussion with me and my friend Eve about it, she turned things around by asking Seth if he had thought about how he might benefit others by being there. “Have you thought about what you might have to offer them?” It totally stumped him. No, he hadn’t thought about that.  He didn’t argue, knowing she had made a valid point. Another friend and I exchanged glances, “Whoa–that was good.”  It’s easy to get caught up in thinking about how we can get our kids involved in this or that, with only their benefit in mind. As parents we are constantly asking ourselves if we are making the right choices for the good of our children. Sometimes we might make the right choices, but for the wrong reasons. I need to step outside that mindset and work harder to remind each of my kids that they have gifts to offer. “It’s not just about you!” Yeah, youth group may not be their favorite thing, maybe they didn’t connect with anyone their first time. Maybe they don’t even want to right now. But what if there’s a kid there that could benefit from what one of my boys has to say? Tonight we got into another discussion about this and my boys all claimed that they don’t have any gifts to share. So I started naming their gifts. The little girls overheard, and of course they wanted me to tell them what I think their gifts are as well. I was a little surprised by how much they needed to hear these things. Sometimes we all need a reminder. Every single one of us has gifts we can share with others. Right now, I need to focus my gifts on helping my children uncover theirs and learn how to use them for the greater good. I’m definitely going to work on that.

Christmas Save

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(midnight mass)

“Perk up girls! It’s Christmas!” It was about 1:15 a.m….

Well, we came dangerously close to celebrating the “Worst Christmas ever.”

All was going smoothly up until the afternoon of Christmas Eve. My warning that things were going downhill in a hurry came in the form of Larkspur crying out, “Something’s wrong with my gerbils!” This was bad. I usually rely on Jonny’s calm nature during emergencies, but he was away with some of the kids picking up a Craigslist pump organ.

Maybe I should back up a bit and explain a little about these gerbils before I tell my story…

There are three of them, all male, and the offspring of some of Larkspur’s close friend Josie’s gerbils that are now deceased. So you see, they carry a somewhat precious bloodline. And to give you an idea of the level of care that Josie’s gerbils receive, here’s what her mom, my friend Rachael, commented recently after I publicly proclaimed that I did not have time to sew Christmas stockings for Larkspur’s gerbils:

I should show you Josie’s 3 pages of instructions regarding gerbil care while she is out of town for a few days. They include how to properly feed one gerbil a treat without hurting the other gerbil’s feelings because he is too fat and not allowed additional treats!!!

Larkspur and Josie care for their gerbils according to a point system that originated in a book on gerbil care. I can’t remember what the highest score is. Let’s just say “10” is the best. You earn points by feeding the correct foods, properly maintaining the habitat, offering healthy treats, etc. Larkspur recently reached a “10,” a little behind Josie who had been a “10” for some time.

I am unsure if the Christmas Eve crisis that I am about to share affected Larkspur’s score.

I asked, “What do you mean something’s wrong with your gerbils?”

“They are acting weird and sleepy and don’t want to open their eyes!”

“Are you sure they’re not hibernating? Should I Google whether gerbils hibernate?”

Larkspur insisted that gerbils don’t hibernate so I Googled, “gerbil limp and dying” and quickly skimmed a couple of gerbil health forums. One woman mentioned tucking her own distressed gerbil inside her blouse for warmth, and someone else mentioned feeding his sick gerbil maple syrup.

Two of the three gerbils were given a drop of maple syrup on Keats’ finger, and were eager for more. It only took seconds before they seemed fully recovered from their mysterious ailment. Unfortunately, the third, Larkspur’s favorite, Captain Whiskers, seemed on his way out. In fact, he appeared to be dead.

I was sure he was a goner, as was our Christmas. I have a sense about these things. Between Captain Whiskers lying limp in Keats’ hand and Larkspur sobbing on the couch, wailing, “This is the worst Christmas EVER!” Yeah, I knew it was all over.

But then, by some miracle, Keats detected a weak pulse in Captain Whiskers. I sprang into action. This was NOT going to be the worst Christmas ever if I could help it. I put the limp gerbil inside my shirt and ran downstairs to look for a small syringe. I was as much terrified that Captain Whiskers was going to die tucked inside my nursing tank, as I was that he was going to revive and bite me. I found a syringe, and raced back upstairs to prepare the maple syrup solution. Ever so carefully (Keats shouting at me, “Don’t drown him!”), I fed Captain Whiskers a few drops of the life saving elixir, all the while crying out, (only inside my head of course),”Stay with me, Captain! I can’t lose you!” I honestly meant it. Not just for his sake, or Larkspur’s, but for the sake of our entire family. I felt the faintest of swallows, so I carefully gave the syringe another squeeze. He swallowed again. Seconds later, he started to struggle a bit in my hands. I stopped holding my breath and felt hope shine in my heart again.

Captain Whiskers did indeed survive. By Christmas morning he was fully himself, and able to enjoy the homemade gerbil granola that Larkspur had tucked inside the handmade stocking that I sewed for him. (I am unsure of how many stockings I ended up sewing for dolls, pets, and even two beta fish. I couldn’t say no when they were presented to me all cut out with names embroidered on many of them.) Surely between the stockings and the (healthy!) treats, Larkspur was able to maintain her perfect score of “10.”

Feeling maybe a little too proud of my gerbil resuscitation skills, I said to Larkspur, “So…pretty cool how I saved your gerbil and your Christmas, right?”

She replied, “Oh, if only Josie had been here. She would have known what to do…”

Of course.


p.s.  I asked Larkspur why she embroidered, “CAT” on Francisco’s stocking and she replied that she wants to be able to re-use it for another cat in case he isn’t still her favorite next Christmas.

p.p.s. That sweet little cross-stitch pattern is in the latest Taproot magazine.

p.p.p.s. Merry Christmas!!!