Monday, December 29, 2014

Post Christmas...

We've been hit with a virus that's going around town, and I don't have much pleasant to say about the last few days. Fevers, coughs, snotty noses, and bad nights of sleep are things I don't really want to write about, much less slog through. We discovered that Evan had thrown up (from a snotty stomach probably) when we arrived at church for the Christmas Eve service, so we turned around and went home. That was pretty disappointing, but we had a pretty good Christmas anyway before David and Ben and I came down with the bug. 

But I do have a sweet story! :) Ben is only allowed to have a passy now at nap time. That has made his passy a treasured possession, lemme tell ya. Anyway, we have a baby doll wrapped in a white receiving blanket that we put on the table in the living room on Christmas Day. Ben decided that Baby Jesus needed a passy. He put his passy in Baby Jesus' mouth, and ran off as we all smiled. 

At nap time on Christmas Day, Ben looked longingly at Baby Jesus' passy. We asked him if he'd like to borrow it from Baby Jesus for his nap time. So he enthusiastically popped it in his mouth, and we headed upstairs for nap. After nap, the first thing he said was "I give the passy back to Baby Jesus now." And so he did, just as as soon as he got downstairs. :) 

He's gone through this routine for several days now. I'm putting off putting Baby Jesus away because it's so cute. :) 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wisdom of Anne....

"For a time she thought of all the old loved things behind her and then her thoughts ran ahead of her to the loved things before her. Her heart sang all the way because she was going home to a joyous house... a house where every one who crossed its threshold knew it was a home... a house that was filled all the time with laughter and silver mugs and snapshots and babies... precious things with curls and chubby knees... and rooms that would welcome her... where the chairs waited patiently and the dresses in her closet were expecting her... where little anniversaries were always being celebrated and little secrets were always being whispered."- Anne of Ingleside, p. 14

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Oven roasted sausage and potatoes...

Ok, so I got this recipe from a friend's link ages ago, and then the link stopped working, so I thought I'd post it here. It's become a staple around our house for my meat and potato lovers.

Oven Roasted Sausage and Potatoes

1/2-1 pkg. smoked sausage, sliced
1 onion, chopped
5 red potatoes, cubed
a drizzle of olive oil
generous sprinkling of salt and pepper
generous dashes of paprika and thyme
shredded cheese

Grease a 9x13 Pyrex dish. Throw in the sausage, onions, and potatoes. Drizzle with oil and add seasonings and then stir to coat. Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes- 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent sticking. Add cheese on top at the end.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The youngest of them...

See this little angel? This little darling? The one with the smile that can turn all women in his life into melted butter in the wink of a eye?

Not so much this week.

It's dawning on me why I take less showers than I did when he was a newborn. He wakes up the second my feet hit the floor, and I can't trust him while I'm in the shower.

Last Sunday, he flushed two toothbrushes down the toilet. (David borrowed a pipe snake and got them out, but we think there's still something down there because it's still not flushing well.)

Yesterday, while I was taking that rare shower so that I wouldn't frighten all the other women at Bible study with my greasy hair, he pulled a stool up to the bathroom counter, climbed up, opened the medicine cabinet, opened a child proof bottle of ibuprofen, and drank everything in it (half a bottle's worth). When I caught him, he was trying to pry open the bottle of allergy medicine to continue his medicinal orgy.

I panicked, but a little research showed me that he would live with nothing more serious than sleepiness and possibly an upset tummy, so I packed us all up and headed to CBS. And then asked for prayer for how to handle his recent obsession with playing in the bathroom.

Last night I took him out for a little one-on-one errand running, and I didn't realize that David had left a hammer in a plastic bag in the backseat of this car. I heard a loud noise and turned around to see him hitting the passenger side window with a hammer. I had to stop the car in the middle of the road and take it away!

Today he pooped in his pants, and as I was stripping him and giving him a bath and dunking his dirty underwear in the toilet that he broke and wondering if I could flush it, I was seething.

But now it's evening, and Daddy's home, and we're watching the second Star Wars movie in front of the tv.  The big boys are asking excited questions and saying, "It's the Millennium Falcon. Do you see it?" He's begging for more pizza and humming the Weird Al "Yoda" song, and I feel a little less like running away from home.

But he just got into the wine glasses in the china cabinet while he was supposed to be in time out, so maybe I take that back… This 3-year-old is gonna be the death of me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A walk among the trees...

This morning, I put on a vest to ward off the slight chill in the air, laced up my shoes, and walked out the front door of the home where I grew up to wander aimlessly in the fall sunshine with my oldest boy. (This oldest boy is too tall and gangly for me to be comfortable with his tallness and ganglyness, but he still holds my hand, so I will begrudgingly accept this.)

I found myself heading down the driveway toward the road, and it was almost like my feet turned me left when we reached the end. We got to the neighbor's driveway, and I lifted him up so we could read the historic marker there, my family name hammered into the metal in several places. We headed up their driveway, and I took in this perspective that I haven't seen in years. I remembered the little gate that separates our horse pasture from their yard, probably grown rusty with disuse at this point.

He didn't recognize me when he opened the door, this neighbor who watched me grow up. And time had changed him, too. He lives as a 40-something in my memory, though he is now closer to 70. I told my brown haired boy about how they opened the old home place to our family again when I married his father.

As we walked back, he asked me to explain the expression "deep roots." I pointed out one of the many tall, strong, living examples of this that line the driveway...

"When you grow up somewhere your whole life, you are like a tall, mature oak tree. The longer it grows in one place, the deeper and stronger its roots get. I grew up here, and so I know the people and places here well and have a lot of memories here. Daddy grew up in many places and got to know lots of different people and have a lot of different experiences than I did, but there is something special about growing up in one place and having deep roots, too."

We were silent again, our feet crunching in the dead leaves, and I saw those tree roots in my mind's eye, twisted and deep and strong, reaching down far into the rich Carolina clay. I thought about the struggle it took to wrench myself from this place when I got married and became a nomad for several years. There's a reason why it was hard. There's a reason why I wake up from dreams that this place has been sold with tears in my eyes.

My sons are growing up in a city, not a small town. I wonder if they will yearn for their childhood home in the same  way that I do. I'm sure it'll look different, but I don't know how yet. However it looks, I want them to have people and places to return to with joy that speak to them of unconditional love and family and knowing and being known. 

I think this is a beautiful glimpse of eternal home that He sometimes gives us so we will trust that it exists more fully with Him in heaven. When I enter heaven, I suspect that I will look at Him and say, "This feeling is familiar. Thank you for the bit of it that I got on earth to remind me of you who created it."

Monday, November 03, 2014

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Good things...

Good things from this week so far….

- Last minute Chick Fil A lunch after co-op with a sweet friend. She texted that morning that we could get free kid's meals if the boys dressed up, so I threw the costumes in the car as we headed out the door.

- The tree in front of the house in glorious, full blown yellow. Most years it is red, so this was a beautiful surprise.

- Two teenage Ninja turtles and a giraffe for Halloween. Seth and Evan were Raphael and Donatello. (I should get extra homeschool mom points for restraining myself from giving them a lesson about famous artists after informing them of which ones they were.)

- Braised beef and noodles for dinner on a chilly, wet Saturday. And hooray for saving the cut of beef I'd bought that wouldn't have been edible cooked any other way.

- Introducing the boys to "The Princess Bride" and hearing them giggle and get the jokes. That whole movie is completely quotable. The whole thing, I swear. It's inconceivable. (Speaking of swearing, there's a bad word at the end when Inigo Montoya kills Count Dugan, so next time, we'll skip through that.)

- Finding several treasures at our local once a month, dollar book sale.

- Seth asking to read more than just one chapter in his new book on King Arthur. I've been waiting a long time to hear that wonderful question.

- A date night to look forward to tomorrow night. We've discovered that no weekend night is a bad night for a date. :)

- Meeting an older lady in our neighborhood while trick or treating and having her invite Ben inside to show him her giraffe statue. Maybe we can find a way to be a blessing to her soon.

- Finding some plain, long sleeved t-shirts at Old Navy that don't hug the 3-kid permababybump pooch. This is a big deal, since I have gone out shopping for them before and come back with nothing, and I really needed to replace some of my daily basics.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The ups and downs...

This morning I read the legend of Finn MacCoul to my sons, and Seth turned to me and said, "I want to make my own story like the legends and myths you're reading me. Can I?" So I took him to the computer, and I typed up his story. (It showed the little boy that he is, and that he's taking in the structures of the stories we're reading, so it was great all around.) I separated it out into different pages for him to illustrate, and I printed it out.

In the meantime, Evan was whining that I'm not giving him enough attention. He told me that I spend "all the time with Seth and not even 20 seconds with him". Cue new worries about not giving him enough attention. (This adds to my other new worry about whether or not his math curriculum is too advanced for him, blah.)

Ben arrived back from his time with grandparents, and I read to him. He proceeded to pee all over the couch. Evan was now crying because he wanted Seth to draw something for him, and Seth was sternly telling him that he was doing his copy work and couldn't. So Evan wanted attention, but I'm having to clean up the couch and change Ben's clothes and my clothes. Evan was sent to time out, and I was muttering under my breath about having too many children to educate.

Got the morning back on track by sitting with Evan and praising him for his drawing efforts. Tried to remember the blog post I'd read recently about whining being a cry for help and a worry that they can't do what they really want to. Watched him smile big and dig into drawing more things to show me.

My days seem so often to be such a big mix of blessing and cursing. One minute I'm riding high on something great I'm seeing from them, and another minute I feel like I'm an unfit mother. Gah!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What we do...

“I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.”
– the film Chocolat

I read this quote on "The Art of Simple" blog this week, and for some reason it stuck with me, so I went back and looked again. I think the reason I took notice is because I spend too much time lately thinking about all the things that I don't do.

Our homeschool co-op has just started, and we're doing a study called "The Best Yes" during our R&R hour. This was the first week doing that, and we had to go around the small group circle and talk about how we felt our time was generally scheduled right now. At this point, I feel like we have a pretty good balance with planned activities and calm days at home to school and create and play. We've got Scouts and now tae kwon do on Monday and Tuesday nights, and M-T-W are free of activities during the day other than school and play. Thursday and Friday are out of the house in the mornings for Community Bible Study and homeschool co-op.

I feel like we're in a pretty good place over all right now, but as I was talking in small group, I realized I do live too much with the worry that I'm not doing enough, not balancing enough, not creating the best education for my children, etc.

The freedom to homeschool is a double edged sword. We choose this so that we won't be pushed around by too many external pressures from a traditional school environment. BUT we often trade that external pressure for internal pressure. We have the freedom to create an individualized education for the children in our families, but what do we do with that? Sometimes all the things we could be doing crowd our minds. It's easy to think about those things instead of what we're actually doing and doing well.

I need to be more like that little guy up there. Evan and I had some one on one time this summer while my wonderful in-laws took the other boys. On two of those mornings, we picked out Lego kits to make together. Evan is my Lego obsessed boy, and he is so good at building and creating with all kinds of materials. At this point, he's populating his own Star Wars alternative universe called "Air Wars."

And he's not worried about what he's not doing. He's not focused on all the different galaxies he could be creating if he had the time. Instead, he's sitting the kitchen table with his latest intergalactic vehicle and calmly saying, "I'm a genius." (No worries about low self esteem over here right now. :)

I want to be a little more like him, smiling with satisfaction at what is before me.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Taking them places….

They look so serene in this picture, don't they? The reason I took this picture was because this isn't usually my view, and I captured it to remember that it is this from time to time. :)

Yesterday, I was at a park playdate for local homeschoolers. Plenty of kids and moms were there, toddlers to middle schoolers, and the moms stood around chatting while the kids played in the trees, on the playground, in the big field across from the playground, etc.

The playdate lasted until 3, and I'm sure that some families probably stayed that long. Me? I was very ready to go at 1:30.

Here's the reason why: I spend my whole time at these kinds of events wondering when I'm going to lose at least one of my children.

I can't trust any of them not to get lost. My oldest has no desire to get lost, but because he has very little  natural sense of direction, and because he isn't that aware of his surroundings, it's very easy for him to get lost even yards from where I am and start crying, get worried, etc.

Ditto for my second born, but he's even less aware than my first, and he's also passive aggressive. If he doesn't want to come with us, he doesn't. He dawdles until he's very far behind. Because he has little awareness of his surroundings, he can also get lost easily even if he doesn't choose to.

My youngest has the most awareness of where he is, but he simply doesn't care at this point if he gets lost. He runs off for fun. He's only 3.

So the other moms stay and chat and have a good time, and I am constantly scanning my surroundings for all three, and usually none of them are together. Yesterday, I felt sorry for myself. A lot.

I was telling David about how I felt last night, and I started ranting about how even one of them not getting lost easily would be huge. There's a trip to an orchard planned for next week with a group I could join up with, and there are moms of many and moms of many littles going. But taking my three to a big place with lots of trees that look alike right now? That sounds like my worst nightmare.

I know it'll get better for me one day, but right now, life with these three children still has specific limitations that it feels like other moms that are in a similar situation don't have. I get angry about that sometimes. I just want it to get easier, dang it!

David agreed with my assessment, and as further proof, he lost Seth this morning when he took all three out biking on a greenway trail. Seth hadn't noticed where they'd stopped for a minute to look at something or something like that, and he got left behind. He asked a jogger for help. In the meantime, David had to ask a family to stay with Evan so he could bike back and look for him. Just hearing about it made my blood pressure go up.

Gah! Anyway, this has been bothering me, so I blogged it out. There. Maybe now I'll feel better. :)

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Tea Time Tuesday/Thursday...

Tea Time doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful, y'all. :) (I stole a line from the Nester, in case you didn't notice.)

I started reading more to the boys during their afternoon snack time over the summer, so when I saw someone talking about have "Tea Time" on a Charlotte Mason Facebook page, it seemed like that would be an easy and fun fit for us. I had a tea party with them two years ago when we "rowed" a book about Russia, and they loved it, so why not try it again?

This afternoon I decided spur of the moment to have special Tea Time. (Dinner tonight isn't going to require a lot of dishes. These sorts of things factor into my energy conservation equation.) I pulled out a bright tablecloth I bought ages ago at a yard sale and threw it on the table. I pulled out the Raspberry Zinger tea in the pantry. (Nice and purple and fun looking for little boys.) I got out the box of sugar cubes we used last year to make a pyramid. Still good! :)

I'd been on the hunt for a cheap teapot or a tea kettle most of the summer. Every tea kettle I saw at the thrift stores I visit was rusted or ugly or too small or something. But last week, I scored a nice Copco stainless steel kettle for $4! (I get far too much pleasure out of waiting it out and of not paying retail, but everyone needs a hobby.)

I pulled up a recipe for Scotch Teas that someone had posted, and I got them in the oven pretty quickly. And then I called the boys down. Evan said, "What's that wonderful smell?" Brown sugar and butter do smell pretty wonderful, don't they?

We got the kettle boiling, and I called them over to look when it started to whistle. They were fascinated. I set out cups and saucers, a little cup of sugar cubes, and tea bags. They loved dunking their own tea. Everyone wanted more cookies (nope, just one), and I let them have two cups of tea apiece. (Next time I need to have a cup of ice cubes out for cooling down the tea after they've made it.)

I pulled out our current read aloud, and they sipped quietly. I told them we'd be having special tea time every week, and I got a huge smile out of Seth for that. Evan just wanted a guarantee that he'd be getting more of those cookies. (I'm freezing the rest for future tea times.) They helped me clear the table, and we were done.

This was such a small thing that cost so little, but I can tell it made them feel cared for. I'm looking forward to many more Tea Times with my handsome young men.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Science, take 1...

Still totally in love with "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School"! I may learn how to make chicken that isn't dry finally! But I'm finished with that, and though I'm looking through all the sticky tabbed pages often, I'm moving on to tell you about science for the year.

This year we're following the recommendations from "the Well Trained Mind" to do Earth Science and Astronomy. I bought the Apologia Astronomy book as our spine for Astronomy, but we're starting with Earth Science. So here's how I'm doing that...

The other day, I went through that section in our wonderful local library, and I pulled out books that I thought looked interesting in a variety of subjects. I've got books on volcanos, earthquakes, landslides, climates, floods, caves, rocks, gems, and minerals. I put them in the science book box, and then I got a few earth science related experiment books. After I looked through those, I came up with a clear winner in that category, and I sticky tabbed the experiments I want to use from it.

This book is "How the Earth Works: 60 Fun Activities for Exploring Volcanoes, Fossils, Earthquakes, and More." Tomorrow we're going to cut into a hard boiled egg and use it to talk about the earth's mantle, crust, and core. Then maybe we'll try and eat the egg. ;) I'm going to let them color and put on the wall the photocopy I made from the book of the layers of the earth.

I bought a couple of $2 laminated placemats at the homeschool conference this year, and they're up on our wall now. They are "Rocks and Minerals" and "The Solar System." After I put them up, Seth spent some time studying them. This year, I'm also planning to have them memorize the different kinds of rocks and the planets in order, and those two things made it into our memory binder.

Oh, and the spine I'm using for earth science is the DK Eye Wonder Earth book. Of all the reference books available at our library, it was the best, and the library had many books to cover the different topics presented in it.

When we read a science book, I'm pulling out a sheet of blank paper and a pen, and I'm labeling the top with the title of the book or books, and then I ask them what they learned/what was interesting about the book. I copy down what they say, and sometimes I have them draw a picture on the paper to go with it. Then I hole punch it and put it in that section of our Wonder book. I'll take pictures of our experiments and hopefully figure out how to make collages to print out and put in the book, too.

Yesterday wasn't the greatest first day of school. There was weeping and gnashing of teeth and complaints about having to put up Legos. Today was MUCH better! Ben wanted to participate in a lot and didn't cause trouble. He's going to know the continents at age 3. Seth had a good attitude about the increased table work that he'll be having this year, and I made a point to smile and let words of praise fall easily from my lips. ;)

To top it off, Papa (my daddy) came through on his way back from the beach and took us out to lunch at Chick Fil A, so they each got kids meals AND chocolate milk. I got a clean kitchen before rest time. Score!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

low and slow cooking….

My copy of "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" came in through interlibrary loan, and that plus tonight's dinner got me thinking about what I've learned lately about low and slow cooking. I'm not talking about the crock pot. That is good for some things, but I'm noticed that it tends to dry my meat out unless there are plenty of moist things in the pot with the meat, ie. soups or stews.

About a year ago, I tried Cooking Light's Beef Daube Provencal recipe, and I fell in love. It made the stew beef that I usually dry out through stove top cooking turn into something that would melt in your mouth. I realized it had to be the process and not the recipe itself, so I tried applying the same cooking method to my usual beef stew recipe. It transformed it.

Here's the method. Get out a dutch oven, some sort of oven proof pot with a lid that you can use on the stove top and then put in the oven. (Mine is a cheapo stainless steel pot with a lid that I got with a set when we got married.) Put your beef into the pot, bring it to a boil, put in whatever else you're using to flavor like onions, broth, spices, potatoes, etc., and then put a lid on it and throw it in the oven at 300 degrees for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Tonight I applied the same idea using this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. (Hat tip to my sister-in-law, Terri, for the recipe.)  I didn't follow her brining step or make sauce at the end, and I made only 4 chicken drumsticks, rubbed with the seasoning, and then put into a foil packet. Once again, 2 1/2- 3 hours on 300 degrees. The last step of broiling it for a couple of minutes made a great crust to finish. I'm not sure I like the rub that much, but that doesn't seem to be the main component to success with this method. Next time, I may just douse the drumsticks liberally with salt and pepper and maybe a little onion and garlic powder and call it a day.

So, low and slow in the oven. Now that it's getting cooler in these parts, I'll probably be using this technique multiple times a week. Hmm, wonder if it would work on marinated boneless skinless chicken breasts? I think I'll try and find out. :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My version of one dish chicken, potatoes, and green beans...

Ok, so there's this dish that floats around Pinterest. It involves chicken breasts, cut up potatoes, and green beans. The whole thing is smothered in Italian dressing and baked together.

I decided to make my own version with spices and my own marinade, and I am glad to report that it got rave reviews from the family I delivered it to. That inspired me to make it again for another family that just had a baby. Maybe I'll even make it for us one of these days. ;) Anyway, try it and let me know what you think if you like it.

One Dish Chicken, Potatoes, and Green Beans

3 chicken breast, cut into large pieces
4-5 red skinned potatoes, cut into chunks
a couple of cups of frozen green beans
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
Penzeys Italian Herb Mix (or other blend of your choice)
thinly sliced butter pats

1 t. crushed rosemary
1 t. basil
1 t. garlic powder
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. fennel seeds
a dash of dried onion flakes

Marinate the chicken breasts in a mix of half olive oil and roughly half balsamic vinegar with some italian herbs generously shaken in there. I usually marinate for a whole day, and I don't think I've used more than 1/4 c. of each liquid.

Then cut up the chicken (maybe 3 parts per breast?), and lay down the center of a greased 9x13 dish. Put the chopped potatoes down one side and the green beans down the other side. Combine the seasoning mixture in a small dish and then sprinkle it on top of everything in the pan. Cut up a few pats of butter and put on top.

Now, I'm not sure about the baking part. I haven't baked it myself yet. The idea is that it will all come out cooked at the same time. Try 350 degrees for 1 hour, checking the potatoes and chicken especially for doneness.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The week before we start school...

From one of my Wednesdays with One Kid that my in-laws gave us all this summer. I took Seth to the rainforest exhibit at the science museum downtown. He loved it. 

I didn't have a plan today. I'm avoiding all museums and fun places because it's the last week day before public schools start, and I'm assuming that every parent in the local area will be trying to squeeze in one last bit of summer fun. :) I should've just started the summer school I've been doing with Seth some this month, but I read books and took out the kinetic sand instead, and after Ben decided he'd rather destroy his brother's castle than play, I pulled out a short Netflix Lego movie. I need to regroup after this. :) 

But I'm excited because I recently unearthed the Cycle 2 Classical Conversations CD that my sister-in-law gave me sometime last year. Now, listening to the whole thing makes my shoulders tense. BUT, there are some good history sentences on there that we can sing as we're doing SOTW 2. I found them online and copied and pasted them into a Word document. Something to add to the memory binder I plan to pull together this coming week! 

I also downloaded a World Book This Day in History app onto the iPad. I think that will be fun to pull out during Morning Time some days. Hey, look kids! The Bubonic Plague killed 1,000 people on this day in history! ;) 

I also decided to break down and buy the full version of MacPhun's Art Puzzles app. We used the free version some last year during Morning Time, and they loved it. They got to study the details of Starry Night while we put together the simplest version of the virtual puzzle while listening to soothing classical background music.

I've also decided that I am excited about adding "A Child's Introduction to Art" for our art study. I wanted to study some art from the Medieval and Renaissance periods, and this book takes famous works and artists in mostly chronological order. I ordered a set of Monet prints for Charlotte Mason style picture study, but I plan to use this book to supplement as we go along. 

Now to just figure out what poetry and Bible memory I want for us! And what geography and science facts to memorize, if any. I need to make that a matter of prayer. Honestly, I need to pray more over all the school choices I make, but that becomes even more clear when I have lots of choose from and a short amount of time during Morning Time each day. What to choose! There are soooo many good things! 

The Lego men may be quitting on me soon. Gotta run! Happy homeschooling school year planning to any of you who are still doing it, too! 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

summer wednesday….

Little man checking out his bowling shoes while the older two talk about their scores…

It's been a great few days. I find that I often think that when everyone has been in a good mood and no one is sick, and it's just icing on the cake if we get to do fun things. 

Monday afternoon, we went to our local kid's free bowling, and then we picked up Chick Fil A on the way to a local park. They spent some time playing and then discovered a grassy hill to roll down. They called it  "parachuting" for some reason. 

Yesterday we went to Marbles, the local children's museum. They played happily, buzzing like bees from farm play to the pirate ship to the train table, etc. and around and around again. I drove us home to their excited chatter in the backseat about their favorite things to play with.

Today I took us off to the downtown science museum. Evan really wanted to see the dinosaurs, though he acted a little intimidated like always when we got up close to them. We went to the morning "Meet the Animals." I love that program. It's such fun hands on science. They got to pet a baby alligator, some sort of African lizard, and a rabbit, while they learned about how each animal is adapted to where they live and what they do. The lady who does it asks lots of questions and does a wonderful job with making it interactive.

I'd packed a picnic lunch, and we stopped at a little playground nearby. I sat under the big, shady trees and watched them dig in the sand. Seth told me that he was being respectful of Ben and including him, and that Ben wasn't destroying his sand boat like usual. :) 

Our summer days are winding down. I had so much energy for planning this coming school year right after the homeschool conference in May, but now I'm a little stalled out. Maybe it's that I don't want to dive in again. Or maybe it's that I mostly know what we're doing this year, and it feels mostly familiar and not crazy complicated to pull together. I'm not somebody who writes down detailed schedules for each day. I know what books we're using, and when we finish a lesson, we move on the next. ;) 

Tuesday or Thursday Tea is on the agenda as something new for this year. (I figure that a day that starts with a "T" will help me remember to do it. :) I'm hunting for a teapot or tea kettle that I can use for that. I'm planning to put out a special snack after rest time, let the boys pick their own tea bags to use, have a little bowl of sugar cubes out, etc. I'm going to light a candle and make it a special time. I plan to put things in this time that I haven't gotten to earlier in the week. We may do picture study and read poetry during this time. It's a very Charlotte Mason idea that I've seen tossed around on the CM Facebook feed, and I'm excited about it. 

Well, I'd better run. I'm cutting up some fresh green pepper and SC peaches for dinner with warmed up taco meat from the freezer. (I do a lot of cut up fresh veggies and fruit for sides in the summer.) And then it's off to the pool for an evening family swim. Ah, summer… I'm gonna miss you. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Feeling priceless...

I knew something was up when I came down every morning for breakfast, and I'd find something like this picture above. I'd open the cabinet for cereal bowls, and a packet of our old love letters to each other would fall on me. And they were in chronological order. Each day, I'd get a new packet with a letter on top. So you can't blame a girl for being a little suspicious, but I just figured he'd planned a special date night or something.

Nope. I came home from a girl's night out on Thursday to a husband who informed me that he'd packed up the kids, and I needed to pack for myself because we were leaving for a surprise getaway the next day. It'd been a hard week, y'all. Between potty training Ben and some sort of low grade intestinal bug that has gone through the family, I admit that I was most excited when he first told me about the prospect of not having to make it through Friday with the boys. I didn't care where we were going! :)

We dropped off the boys at my parents' house, and we kept driving west. He finally admitted we were on our way to Asheville. There were roses arranged by my mother hiding in the back of the van that he took out when we got to our hotel.

He had dinner reservations at the Biltmore Inn. The view from our window of the mountain vista was amazing, and the food was excellent. But that wasn't all he had planned. As we were finishing up dinner, he started talking about how much he wanted me to understand that I was priceless to him. I wasn't just priceless to him because of what I did every day but because of what I meant to him just for me.

Then this wonderful man pulled out a letter. By the time I got to the end of it, I had figured out what he was up to. I burst into tears and said, "But you don't have to do this! I am happy with my ring. I really am!" He pulled out the most gorgeous diamond solitaire that I've ever seen. By the time he finished reciting our wedding vows from memory, I'm pretty sure that the other two women within earshot were also tearing up.

There was more to the weekend than that. We went to the Biltmore, and we attempted a hot air balloon ride (that got cancelled twice), and I spent some very welcome time in the giant hotel tub with a book. I heard about all the trouble and thought and prayer and time that it took for him to make the decision to do this for me and pull it together. He went to so much trouble and expense. And he did it in such a way that I wouldn't be able to talk him out of it because I didn't feel worthy of the gift.

All of this got me thinking about how I view marriage and even how I view my relationship with God. The Bible uses marriage as a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and his church. We are His bride.

This verse came to mind this weekend:

"The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but he will rejoice over you with singing."- Zephaniah 3:16-18

There were years during infertility when I felt like God was in the middle of giving me a crash course in tough love. I figured that He figured that I needed some serious work on my character, and so the best thing He could do for me was make it hard and unpleasant so I could grow. During that time, my brother gently rebuked me once. He said, "But Ellen, don't assume that God only wants to give you hard things. He is a GOOD God."

I feel like I still take that attitude with life, even though those years are behind us. It's hard for me to sometimes accept that God rejoices over me. He wants to give me good things. Flawed me. Me that yells at my kids and doesn't fold the laundry enough and is far more selfish than I'd like. And it's not like he doesn't know that about me. He's known me for years, you know. So if He knows me that well, doesn't He know that I barely deserve a crust from His table and not the lavish blessings I've been given?

I feel the same way sometimes about my marriage. David is so good to me. So, so good. And he tells me often how much he loves me. I want to believe it, but there's a part of me that says to myself, "Yeah, I know he loves me, but I sure don't know why. Hasn't he figured out how flawed I am yet? I've given him ample time to see it."

But here's the thing. We've been married for 13 years. The rose colored glasses are off. He HAS seen me at my very best and at my ugly worst. This isn't like when we were dating, and he didn't know all this yet. And yet he chooses me anyway. He chooses to treat me as priceless anyway. He chose to give me a lavish gift because he wanted to make a powerful point about how much he values me.

I need to let him rejoice over me. This weekend, I did. And I realized all this because it was a little hard for me to let him. But if I hadn't let him, I would've stolen his joy. Is that how God feels when He wants to take delight in me, and I say, "I don't know how I feel about this. You know that I don't deserve it."?

Anyway, Cinderella is back on potty patrol, but she's still on cloud nine (despite the poop she's scrubbed off the porch today). And she's going to let herself stay there however long it takes to come down. Not because she deserves it but because she is loved anyway. A lot. By her husband and her God. And that's amazing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer minutiae...

The budget might not have had bike money this summer, but thanks to a sweet friend that had a bike sitting in her shed, this is my view from the couch during nap time. Now to just clean it off and pump some air in those tires. I'm looking forward to family bike rides this fall. Seth and Evan can leave us in the dust when we're walking.

Seth and Evan are both on a neighborhood swim team this summer. Mimi and Pop Pop have a great pool, and they're sponsoring them. Seth is the youngest in his age group, and the first meet, I was just praying that he'd make it to the end of the pool without needing to be rescued. He didn't know any of the strokes when the summer started, so he was behind compared to the kids who'd been doing this for a couple of years already. Well, now it's July, and he amazes me. He can swim freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly with the rest of the pack. I'm so glad we did this, but it has meant a lot of evening trips to the pool. Practice was what they both needed though, and this has been a great way to get it.

I've discovered a new beloved author this summer... Elizabeth Enright. I started with "The Saturdays," and I've been hooked ever since. I read everything about the Melendy family, and then I moved onto Gone Away Lake. Enright knows how to do stories about exploring abandoned houses. Didn't you always wish you could stumble upon one of those with really fascinating stuff inside when you were a kid? I know I did. Anyway, now that I've exhausted Enright, I have been trying some other series about families with lots of siblings. "The Penderwicks" are alright, but they're not the Melendys. 

I'm into school planning mode. So far my most inspired plan involves putting together all the science experiments for Apologia astronomy in individual plastic bags, ready to use when we get there. I want to do the same thing with some of the hands on activities from the Story of the World Book 2 activity guide. I also want to make a memory work binder. David has promised to help me with some of this in the evenings.

I'm also trying to finish up a few things with the boys this summer before another school year starts in the fall. Seth is sitting with me and the timer and his penmanship book most days lately. He only has to work for 10 minutes, so I'm not hearing any complaining. I'm also planning on letting them listen to the last few chapters of SOTW 1 and orally narrate with me, and then I want them to go through the whole thing on CD again at night before September. Big plans, big plans... I'm betting it won't all happen. :)

It's been overcast and cool today. We lazed around, read books, and I made banana bread. (Seth wants more breakfasts that don't involve cereal, so I decided to oblige him.) Evan pretended to be a bird in our backyard, and Seth and Ben looked at him through the wrong end of the binoculars to make him look small. I named him our "yellow tufted green bird" since he was wearing a green shirt. Apparently he made his habitat in a tree, and Seth got a lot of nature photos of this rare species. :)

Friday, July 11, 2014

First thoughts on Ambleside Online...

This summer, I've been dabbling in using Ambleside Online. I've got two years of actual homeschooling under my belt now, and I am more willing to slash and burn without guilt if a book list or curriculum doesn't look like just what I'm looking for. ;)

When I first looked at Ambleside many moons ago, my initial thought was honestly, "I am not interested in a curriculum that's designed to be cheap." It was a turn off that most of the books were so old that they were out of copyright. Because it was so cheap, I thought that that was the goal, and it is not our goal to homeschool on a shoestring at the Suburban casa. Just because a book is old doesn't mean that it's quality literature, and just because a book is new doesn't mean that it's bad quality. (I like 19th century women's Christian fiction, but that is for it's curiosity value, not because it's well written. :) I will gladly pay to get quality curriculum, so I didn't think AO fit us.

Then there was the "I don't have a clue how to really use these book lists. Isn't there more?" factor. The website confused me initially. Also the best way to get a lot of the books was online, and we had a single desktop computer in the kitchen.

This year, I was given an iPad for my birthday, and school was so much less stressful to me that I decided I wanted to just print off the Year 1 book list and try doing some of the readings with the boys. I crossed out Our Island Story because I am happy with our history curriculum. I crossed out the Bible readings because I'm happy with the resources we have for that. And then it looked more manageable. :) One of the things that attracted me to Year 1 was that I have a vintage copy of "Fifty Famous Stories Retold" that I found as a child in an old trunk, and it has made many moves with me over the years. And I also wanted to find a way to get in "Paddle to the Sea".

So I've been reading to them while they've been eating snack in the afternoons. And I've been surprised at their positive response. We read a lot of books, but I don't think it's my imagination that they're engaging with these stories more than average. I suspect it's a combination of the short length and the richness of the stories. They often clamor for more when I'm done, but I now know about intentionally spreading it out to give them time to mull over what they're hearing and to let them live with a story longer to make it more a part of them. I usually don't give in.

I read the story of Polycarp yesterday, and after I finished, Seth immediately said, "Wow. He was really brave." We had a short talk about martyrs and the early church, and it could tell that he was mulling it over.

The day that I read the first Parable of Faith about the caterpillar and the bird, I was almost in tears when I finished. I read it all in one sitting, and the boys sat still and completely quiet through the whole thing. They asked questions afterward. They were really listening.

At this point, I am sold. I want to keep going with Ambleside into the school year along with our history and science readings, and I'd like to learn how to schedule some of my own books in a more Charlotte Mason way. I suspect that doing more AO planned by CM experts will give me a better sense of how to do this on my own one day.

So if you're interested in AO, but you're waffling because of some of the difficulties and misconceptions that I had, I'd encourage you to give it another look. Just dabble a bit. It's not the big commitment I thought it might have to be, and I've been pleasantly surprised at how rich the readings are.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

From the beach...

I'm typing this on my iPad at a McDonalds near the family cabin. I can see a few palm trees from my window, and this table looks like a surfboard. Thankful currently for a shower, the ability to dry my hair by opening both van windows, and free wifi. :) Oh, yes, and for my iPad. I will probably never love our iMac, but I definitely have a love affair with my iPad. 

I was talking to my neighbor the other day, and she asked where David was. I told her we weren't seeing him as much because he's doing a lot of trial preparation. She gave me this look and said, "What? You're having a trial separation?" She misheard, but then we both thought it was kind of funny. A trial is separating us, so I guess it's true in a way. Sigh.

He hasn't had a big trial since I was pregnant with Ben, so none of us are used to it anymore. The boys are older now, and they definitely notice when he's not around as much. That's hard for him. We sat them down and talked with them about what he does and why. We also talked about being a team and working together to make this tough time better. I think Seth and Evan really get it. They're trying to be helpful with Ben and make life a little easier for me. They're really growing up.
We got a great deal to go to Great Wolf Lodge at the end of May, and David couldn't go. We knew that was a big possibility, but we decided to get the deal anyway. My dad went with me, and Ben stayed with my mom. The boys and I loved it, and now I know this is the kind of thing we should really do again. But that means that with this trip, we'll have been having a lot of fun without Daddy lately. It's better for him in some ways if we do go off, but it still feels a bit weird.

Seth has learned to paddle on this trip. We're using a flat plastic shovel as an oar, but he's really getting the hang of it. He likes seeing if he can paddle against the wind and current, and he's really proud of himself when he makes headway.

I found some fun toys for Ben's birthday at my favorite thrift store down here. He really likes Hess trucks, and I got a good price on one I think he'll love.

We went to our favorite beach pizza place last night, and the we fed the turtles in the pond behind it and walked the beach. As usual, they all got in and got soaked. I got wise to that this time and brought along some plastic bags and a beach towel. I think that all moms of little boys should keep at least one plastic bag in their purses at all times. :)

And now nap time is about over, and I'll head back down the road, listening to the Jars of Clay hymns album with the windows down, knowing I'll drive up to see salt and sun kissed boys playing by the water....

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Stitch Fix.. Take 2

I ordered my second Stitch Fix box recently. In this fix, I asked for a couple of cute dresses and some short sleeved tops. They sent me five items, two dresses and three tops.

I was pretty impressed with the box. A lot of the items were close calls for me. Also, I liked a lot of the details and styling of most of the clothes, even if I didn't think they looked perfect on me. For instance, with the maxi dress on top, I liked the style, but I thought the blue around my hips basically made an arrow pointing to my mummy tummy. I also didn't like that the shoulders were my skin tone. Now, though, I know that this style of dress is worth trying on in the future.

I liked the scalloped detailing on this dress. The color blocking was nice. I thought the waistline was awkward, and I wasn't sure how flattering it was. The friend who took these pictures thought I should've kept this one.

If I didn't already have a couple of mint shirts, I would've probably kept this one. I loved the polka dots. I didn't like that I had to wear a camisole under it. It wasn't quite as flattering as I would've liked.

I didn't think I would like this one when I pulled it out of the box. I was so wrong. Great color, flattering fit. It isn't like anything else in my closet. The sleeves can be worn up or down. It feels like quality fabric. I decided to keep this one.

The blue sweater below was also a close call. I liked the cut a lot, and it fit right. I already have a cardigan almost this color, and at $48, I would have to have been convinced I would wear it a lot. I wasn't. I also thought it looked like it was a material that would pill easily.

I was more pleased with this fix overall than my first one, though I think I like the shirt from my last fix a little more. It's possible that having a style Pinboard linked to my account helps them fix me more effectively, and I like that I can give detailed feedback about each individual item in my fix. Once again, I only kept one item.

I spent a couple of frustrating afternoons shopping this spring without finding much of anything that I wanted to bring home. I hate wasting that time and looking at all my unattractive lumps ands pooches in a fitting room mirror. This service helps me bypass that experience to some extent. It feels worth it to me to do this once in a while, even if the clothes (even at the "as cheap as possible" setting) are more than I'd spend at Target. Often I can't find much that fits me well at Target anyway. :)

If you're considering using Stitch Fix, please consider using my referral link. I get some credit toward the clothes if you do. I really hope that it works out as well for you as it has for me. Getting the box in the mail is so fun. :)

If you'd like to see my first fix, click here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

13 years...

Today is our 13th wedding anniversary. We celebrated this weekend, so I can smile with amusement about how today has gone.

I woke up early because Ben lost his passy, and I didn't go back to sleep. (Yeah, we really need to do something about that. Later, later…) The highlights of my day included a nap on the couch and a shower while they watched "Curious George."

David rushed in the door, shedding his suit coat as he headed upstairs to put on the tan button down short sleeve shirt that he wears every Monday night for Cub Scouts. I informed him that my plans to make a nice balsamic chicken and rice pilaf for dinner turned into chicken marinated with Walmart brand Italian dressing, regular rice from the rice cooker, and frozen green beans.

The boys made animal noises while "eating" their rice. I then scraped rice off the floor while David ran around getting together the things he'll need to host an end-of-year ice cream sundae party for 7-year-old boys. I suspect there will be little-boy-eating clean up in his future as well.

And then I gave him a kiss, told him "Happy Anniversary" again, and sent him out the door. I'll be taking Ben and Evan to the first swim team meeting of the year pretty soon.

I wondered as I put dishes in the sink what Beyonce would do on her 13th wedding anniversary. And then I realized that the odds of her actually having a 13th wedding anniversary aren't that great.

So I think we still win. :)

Friday, May 09, 2014

Un velo...

I think it's finally and fully spring, maybe even summer. Our local weather has been hesitant about warming up and staying that way. We've had a few warm days, then cooler, then warmer again.

But the last two days, the door to our screened in porch has stayed open. Little boys have run in and out, looking for shovels, begging for bandaids for fingers covered in dirt. They've explored while I've watched from my typical post at the kitchen sink window. I've puttered around, putting away junk that's collected outside, making our outside space something to live in again.

And I'm dreaming of a bicycle. :)

I've been pregnant or nursing on and off for so many years that a bicycle just didn't feel like a priority. David got one, and we put a baby seat on the back of it, and he has taken the boys for many short rides. Most of the time, it feels like someone still needs to hang back with a stroller for our youngest, so even if everyone else takes a bike to the Greenway, Ben and I still tend to hang back. We're not quite there as a biking family yet.

But as part of trying to embrace the baby stage ending (my success in this is partial at best), I'm allowing myself to imagine what it would be like to have my own bike. We live in a city. I live an easy biking distance from a lot of stores. Our favorite thrift store and a grocery store are literally across the street from our little neighborhood. The library would be a stretch, but I could do it if I really wanted to. I could even bike to the houses of some friends without a problem. Where I live is ideal for biking.

So I'm lusting after a city bike with a cushy seat and a big basket for my groceries or some books. But maybe something that could still give me some speed on a tree lined Greenway trail on the perfect spring day for a picnic date.

Maybe it's time to feel the wind in my hair again. This bike won't come with a sparkly blue banana seat like it did when I was 10, but maybe I can close my eyes and imagine that it does.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Style challenged...

All my life, I've been style challenged. There are women who are born with an innate sense of style. They can walk into a store and somehow instantly hone in on the two best items of clothing that will look best on their body, buy them, and walk out. They accessorize with ease. They have the gene.

I was not born with the gene.

I was also taught to buy clothes mainly on sale and/or as cheaply as possible. This might work sometimes, but it mostly meant that I ended up with a closet of clothes that didn't go together no matter how hard I tried.

So I gave up. I was young and thin, and I figured that I couldn't go wrong with the occasional dress (it goes together because it's all one piece, right?), jeans, and t-shirts. I decided that it showed how deep I was that I didn't care about clothes. I had better things to think about… like Austrian economics and my part in Britten's War Requiem. Right? Hmmm.

I got by with this for awhile. The church that I grew up in had no dress code. I wore jeans and even yoga pants on Sunday mornings. My favorite church dress code was when we lived in D.C. So many people in that church (Sovereign Grace) wore jeans on Sunday mornings. It was awesome. I loved it. (I dream of Pajama Day at church where everybody rolls up in their sweats. I would be so happy.)

And then we moved to Raleigh. I had my second baby, and then I had my third. I gained and lost weight. I gained years. And I ended up in a Bible study and a church full of women who look put together, aka "even if they're wearing jeans (which is too rare), it looks like they know what they're doing when they put an outfit together with them."

So where does that have me now? I'm not 25, and I'm no longer thin. A girl can only take so many times of strangers asking her when she's due (when she's not) before it starts to affect her confidence. And trying on 5 different styles of t-shirt in multiple sizes and not coming up with a single one that doesn't hug that mummy tummy doesn't help either.

I know, I know, my body made these babies, and I should be thankful. This is a little bit about the extra pounds around my middle, but it also isn't. I'm mainly tired of feeling like I don't fit in in a world of more stylish women. It's holding me back from reaching out (even though I know it shouldn't). I could change churches and Bible studies, but that would be super shallow, and I'm sure the problem would follow me, even if I found a church with more laid back style.

So I'm diving in. I know about research. I can do research. So I'm pinning outfits, and I'm following "Ain't No Mom Jeans." I've ordered my second fix from Stitch Fix. (Here's my first.)

Lesson number one that I learned: the power of the light sweater. I'm always cold indoors, but if I ever had anything to cover my arms in summer, it was either a white or black cardigan from Walmart. For real. You see that pile of cardigans on the shelf below? Over half of them were bought in the last 6 months. They're helping me mix up my plain shirts just a little bit.

Lesson number two: accessories are my friends. My sister-in-law harassed me into buying a light gray scarf. I'm still figuring out how to use it, but it was a good buy. She got me that red statement necklace you see above. Now I'm on the hunt for more like it. :) A pair of earrings and a necklace make me feel like I tried.

Am I doing this out of self defense? Some days it feels like it, honestly. This is one of them. But some days it feels good to think about myself. Ben is going to be 3 at the end of August. Evan just finally learned how to buckle himself into his car seat. (That shouldn't be a big deal, but it's huge in my world. I'm only buckling one child into the car. One.) My life (on some days) has a little bit of margin in it that I haven't seen in years. I can think about myself and what I look like a little more without the wheels coming completely off the bus.

So I am. It's nice. :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It doesn't take much to be their hero...

It's a gorgeous spring day here. The grass is so green that it looks Photoshopped. :)

We got a some school done that was on my agenda, and some that wasn't. (I congratulated myself when I didn't rush them to finish up a puzzle of the U.S. that I'd forgotten I even had.) "Look, Seth, what is this state? Where does it go?"

When the wiggles were making me start to grit my teeth, I decided to take a break and head to Durant nature park. They ran pell mell through the woods like little puppies to get to the playground. This is the first year that Ben hasn't needed to be carried all the way, and it's the first time that Seth has read the trail signs without help.

You want to be a hero to your boys? Call to them as they play pirates in the woods, and tell them that they're getting "old Mcdonalds" for lunch. Better yet, have their baby brother tell them. Much cuter. And then watch them run for the van.

We hit not one, but two parks today. We ate at Annie Wilkerson and listened to the birds sing. Seth found the end of the fairy trail and told me about all the fairies he'd met and their homes. Evan picked up the flowers of a sweet gum tree and asked the naturalist there to identify it for him. We got some memorable, hands on nature study!

I texted David while we were there. "Thanks for working so hard to make it possible for me to be with our boys. We're thriving."

We are. :)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tenebrae and other misc. musings on Easter...

 Our first year doing an Easter tomb garden… Just a little grass seed and potting soil, et voila.

The roll dough is made and in pans in the fridge. The homemade ice cream is in the freezer, chilling, and the boys are upstairs noisily washing the sticky stuff off their bodies from licking the bowl. I'll make the green bean casserole tonight, and I'll put some jellybeans in a few plastic eggs and make up little Easter baskets. The Honey Baked Ham lies in state on the second shelf of the fridge. ;) Tomorrow we'll dress in whatever "church clothes" look most decent and head out to Easter service. (I'm finding out that I'm not the only one at our church that doesn't buy new clothes and do up big, elaborate baskets for Easter. And I'm grateful for that. Those things steal my joy and appropriate attention from Jesus, and I'm glad I'm not the only one.)

So this Easter, we decided to try and find a tenebrae service. My sister-in-law, Terri, really enjoyed the one that her church had when they lived in Minnesota, so I thought it was worth a shot. The problem is that evangelicals don't seem to do this kind of service routinely, so it was tough to find one. I asked around, but there was nothing close. Then I overheard a mom talking about her church at the playground,  and it was St. Marks Methodist near us. I asked if they had a Good Friday tenebrae service, and they did! Community Bible Study met there when Seth was a baby, so I knew a little bit about the church.

The service was exactly what I was hoping for. The choir sang "I Believe" while they stripped the chancel. This meant covering things with black cloths, taking off altar cloths, etc. It was moving to me, especially when someone took the vestments from around the minister's neck. It hit me that without Christ, we don't have the church, we don't have the people of the church, the ministers, the parishioners, etc. The other pieces didn't mean as much to me because those aren't a typical part our worship, but this felt a little like somebody coming up to our pastor and taking his Bible and microphone and telling him to leave because he had nothing to say anymore.

Most of the service was simply reading through the parts of Christ's passion from the book of John, and as the pastors read, they would pause and put out one of the many candles in front of them. At the end, the sanctuary was dark and quiet. One pastor took the tall candle out of its stand, walked away, and then there was a loud sound to symbolize the earthquake when Christ died. He brought the candle back, and it was left lit, alone, a tiny light in the middle of the dark room. We all followed the ministers out, and then he read the last passage, locked the sanctuary, prayed and then went out silently.

Evangelical Christianity has a lot of wonderful things about it, but I think there may have been an over reaction against symbolism and liturgy during my childhood. I know that symbolism can be empty, but that doesn't meant that it always is. Sometimes it is beautiful and meaningful, and the Bible bears that out in many places. I also wonder if, through concern that many mainline/Catholic churches focused too much on Christ's sacrifice to the exclusion of His victory, evangelical churches threw that baby out a bit with the bathwater as well. It seems like we almost never dwell on His sacrifice.

All that to say, I'm discovering something new to me (though tenebrae has been around since the 5th century) that has enhanced our understanding of Easter this year, and I'm thankful for it. A tenebrae service may become an Easter tradition for our family.

"He is risen!" And all reply, "He is risen, indeed!" :) 

 Easter mantel… found the printable on Pinterest :) 

Sealed sanctuary until Easter morning...

Friday, April 11, 2014

spring, my friends...

A little throwback to 2012. I was holding baby Ben on a picnic table when this was taken.

I just threw a wrinkled tablecloth on a crumb covered table. I pulled out 2 plates of the little fine china that I own, and I found some stubby white candles and pushed them into the crystal candle holders. While the boys tested to figure out which matchbox cars can fly the farthest, I cut up chicken and broccoli and strawberries. And then I threw them out the door with their grandparents… :) 

David and I haven't seen much of each other this week. It's been one of those nutty weeks that just flies by in a daze, and we've been a bit like ships passing in the night. We sent off some friends to a new home in D.C., and their loss will be felt. My parents came and played and took boys to a baseball game. I yelled during school and vowed that the schedule must become more relaxed to accommodate springtime wiggles. 

The pollen is so thick on the porch that my original plan to eat out there tonight had to be scrapped, but I made a cute Evite invitation for him to dinner at our place before that. I may forget to give him his birthday cards from me and the boys, but I can pull a baby rabbit out of my hat in this season of our life from time to time if it's only a baby one. :) 

After this long, long winter, spring feels like even more of a blessing. We learned about the myth of Ceres and her daughter today in Story of the World. The boys can tell the story, pomegranate seeds, six months underground, six months above, rejoicing and spring when she comes back, etc. But I couldn't help but think how much better God's story of spring is. The world was trapped in winter, but then God's Son died, renewed the earth, and breathed the breath of real spring onto the whole world. It is no coincidence that we celebrate the Resurrection when new life springs forth from the earth, and I'm so glad He planned it that way.

When I see the dogwoods bloom, that's what I think about. :) 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

She said it better...

Ok, so I found this post today from Amongst Lovely Things, and she is way better at expressing my recent angst than I am. Go there!

I enjoy reading this blog. She's classically inclined like me, but she doesn't seem overly stressed out about it. It's a Catholic blog, and I think I find myself gravitating toward some of those lately. I think it's because the Catholics have lots of kids and seem to survive, so that's encouraging. :)

I also like to look at her pictures of her adorable twin boys. Because, of course, if we ever have another child, it would be twin boys. Hah!

Monday, March 24, 2014

contentment killers...

We've gotten into a good homeschooling family routine. Gymnastics and Cub Scouts on Mondays, CBS on Thursdays, Homeschool Co-op on Fridays (with the occasional park playdate afterward that I aspire to go to again one of these days). I'm getting some regular time to listen to other co-op homeschool moms share what's working and not working for them, and I like hearing a lot of different perspectives, especially from women who are a little more seasoned than I am. We have a great Life Class at church that we spend time with, and we volunteer in nursery. Going to the park at the last minute is a staple of life that a bunch of active boys and their mom can't live without.

I feel like we've found the right balance for us in this season. It's good. I was feeling deficient in homeschooler interactions, and co-op rectified that a good bit.


Even when I feel like all is well and we're where we need to be for now, it's so easy to second guess.

I like to read blogs, and I subscribe to many in Bloglovin'. But I've noticed that most of the ones that I subscribe to do not involve a lot of posts about complicated craft projects or home renovations. Nobody is making ravioli from scratch while simultaneously painting all their furniture and tandem nursing twins. If they start trending in this direction, I usually fire them from my reader.

I tend toward bloggers that tell me about their introverted tendencies, their thoughts on balancing family life, how they're growing through relationships, etc. I also like to read bloggers who recommend good books for children and adults. I'm a sucker for a good children's book blog.

I can often take the energetic bloggers in stride. That's their thing! They love it, and it makes them feel more alive to tandem nurse while putting up drywall. To each his own! Vive la difference! I find it a little stressful to watch, but I think it's good that there are energetic movers and shakers in this world who enjoy that kind of thing.

It's a little harder to feel at ease, though, when it's other homeschoolers planning and doing lots of cool, educational things. I see all the fun things that everyone is doing on Facebook or on a blog, and I think, "maybe I should be doing that." Or, "hmmm, that looks like fun. It could go well with those books we've been reading on explorers," etc., etc. It's tempting to think I should shake things up and sign up for even more.

But then I remember that a big part of why I'm homeschooling is because I actually want to be in my home.

When we're out and about, that is a good thing. We need to experience class environments and spend time with other homeschoolers and exercise little bodies on the balance beam. But if we're out much more than we are, I start to lose my center. I feel it beginning to happen. My focus gets fuzzier. I rush too much. I don't take the time to look at my boys in their eyes and drop everything to come and see the latest bug they've found.

If I'm going to err, let it be on the side of being fully present in my home. I'm going to need to carefully choose our outside commitments because I'm sure that's most important right now.

Maybe I need to unsubscribe from a few more blogs. :)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


It's midwinter, and staying inside has encouraged some filing and chores that I have been putting off. For instance, I have been really slack this year about putting things in the Wonder Book. I usually stick papers in this handy little clipboard I have that opens and stores papers and pens, but it was getting a tad bit full.

Finally getting stuff filed made me realize that I wanted to make a book list for the year. And what a book list it will be! I've got categories like "History" and "Picture Book Biographies" and "Books on CD." Writing down even a fraction of what we read makes me realize that the heart of school for us truly is  the books we read. I get title ideas from everywhere. Simplehomeschool gave out a great list of new picture book biographies, and our library had most of them. We've read about Jefferson building the a Library of Congress, Einstein, Paul Erdos, Clara Barton. Books are such a wonderful way to introduce the idea that there are a million different things that you can do and think about and discover.

Seth was randomly listing our blessings the other night, and at the top of the list were "toys so the kids don't get bored" and "books so the grown ups don't get bored." We laughed at that, but it's true. He sees his parents with their noses buried in books when we can snatch a free minute or two. That's us. That's our family, and he's gotten the idea.

We just finished up "Farmer Boy" (reading aloud at lunch slowed down significantly for awhile), and I've just started reading "Owls in the Family." They're loving this one so much that the enthusiasm was really high when I asked them if they wanted me to get some books on owls from the library. I want to read "The Light Princess" by McDonald before things get more relaxed here in May.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Much to hope from a rose...

"There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion. It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary to our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness that gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers."- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Thursday, February 06, 2014

seeing the glory of God….

Combine Evan, a bag of rubber bands, and about 30 minutes and you get a work of art that will keep you from opening your desk drawers more than half an inch…

So, it's been a little bit of an emotional roller coaster around here lately. I've recently been diagnosed with chronic bladder pain, otherwise known as "interstitial cystitis." Yeah, not exactly an easy thing to talk about in polite company. I've had this on and off since Seth was 6 months old, but its been rare and generally hasn't lasted more than a week or so, so I was hoping it would leave and never come back, and I didn't bother to figure out what I had (once again, hoping I had nothing.) This latest round has been going on 3 months now. It ranges from making me want to cry to low grade discomfort, so I finally went to see a urologist. (Again. I went to see one 6 years ago who did a CAT scan and took pictures of my bladder, and told me he couldn't find anything wrong. Umm, thanks.) 

The next step is pelvic floor physical therapy. Doesn't that sound fun? :)

Anyhoo, all this to say that I've been a little grumpy with God. I've been grumpy on a few different levels. I've been doubting some things that I think He's been saying to me about where our life is headed, and I've been doubting that He's going to take care of me and keep me functioning so I can serve my kids and my husband well. 

But the good news is that God doesn't usually leave me doubting him without doing His best to get my attention and encourage me. This week's CBS lesson was on John 11, the raising of Lazarus. As I did Seth's lesson with him last night, I noticed a thing or two about Martha. 

See, Martha, she has a problem with being a yo-yo like me. One minute she's saying, "Yes, Lord, I know you've got my situation under control. I know you're powerful. I believe it. I trust you." And the next minute she's saying, "Ok, where were you when I really needed you? Where were you when I was just sure that you'd show up and make everything right?" Um, this sounds awfully familiar. 

So Martha tells Jesus, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now, I know that God will give you whatever you ask." See the smidgen of faith here? She's trying. She's heard that Jesus has raised others from the dead before. Maybe they were just mostly dead like the cynics have been claiming. She's going to try and push the doubts about the whole "mostly dead" thing to the back of her mind. She's trying to trust.

And then 5 minutes later, when Jesus asks to open the tomb, what's her first thought? "Are you sure? He's been in there 4 days, and he probably smells bad." Seeing a lot of faith here? Are these the words of somebody who is expecting the miracle that she claimed she has faith for earlier? Apparently Jesus doesn't think so either, because he says this:

"Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

Our teaching director pointed this out in lecture today, and I wanted to cry right there at the table. Because I am struggling, just like Martha, to believe that I will see the glory of God. And God is challenging me, just like He did her. It's time to step up and believe…. even though I can't see how my pain is going to be used for His glory. Even though it feels laughable to think that He'd come through on other promises we think He's made to our family. 

I wrote the verse in bold up there on a chalkboard, and its in my living room now. I suspect that I'm going to need to see it often. He had patience with Martha, and I hope He'll have patience with me.