Monday, July 28, 2014
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
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
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.