Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time's Limits

Sometimes life seems simple and spacious, and I begin a project to fill my leisure hours.

Like at the beginning of fall, when summer's crazyness is winding down, and my mind wanders ahead to the dark quiet evenings of winter, and the cozy, restful kind of work that can fill the two hours between the kids' bedtime and my own.

This fall I taught myself to knit. Inspired by Amanda Soule at Soulemama and her inspiring goal of knitting each of her family members (even her husband) a sweater for Christmas, I decided my first knitting project would be a white button down sweater for Raindrop. Something to turn short sleeved dresses and shirts into winter-ware, something that matches any outfit and makes it cozier. I chose a baby sweater pattern from my "Teach Yourself to Knit" book, and worked the stitches over and over again with the same piece of yarn, knitting it, unravelling it all, and knitting again until I was satisfied that I had the stitch figured out. If I'm going to spend all the money and time on it, I want to be happy with it when I'm done.

The problem is, my real life is neither simple nor spacious, and I don't have hours of time waiting for me to fill it. I have a myriad of projects and interests all clamoring for my time, all the more so since I began first grade with Christopher Robin in earnest at the beginning of September.

I have potatos and carrots and rutabagas to bring in from the garden before the ground freezes, I have squash to bring in and cook and freeze, a new pile of wood to stack, a book to read for the book club, piles of laundry waiting for me to fold at the end of most days, bills to pay, friends and family to keep in touch with, and soon, Christmas preparations to begin. And I'd like to fit blogging back into my life somewhere in a regular spot.

To my chagrin, I forgot about my basil patch (it was so lush and healthy, and I was so excited to try making pesto and having it on hand all winter to flavor pizza and pasta) until the frost had killed it. I hoped to add bulbs this fall, too...more tulips and darling crocuses and a patch of gladiolas, and now the time for that has nearly passed me by, too.

But the most imporant things, beginning my days in the Word, setting my mind on Christ, learning to live by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than in gritting my teeth and willing myself to do what's right, educating my children, reading scripture to them, learning to see them as people and respect them and hear them, those things have not been neglected this fall. The rest, my projects, my goals and hopes and dreams are just icing. If I don't get more bulbs planted this fall, I won't still be regretting that in 20 years (I may regret it if I don't get any apple trees planted this spring, however, because those could be a wonderful resource in 20 years), so I reach the end of my day and I choose. Tonight I'll blog for a little bit while three full baskets of laundry wait to be folded, and after this I'll turn on the gubernatorial debate, pick up the little white sweater, and knit. Not full of regrets that I can't get everything done. Just quietly thankful that I have so many good choices for how to spend my time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Gifts I've found on vacation in Illinois...

308. Sweet niece just my daughter's size, cooing, "Oh, so cute!!" about her little cousin. And sidling up to her with her head tilted lovingly towards her, and directing endearing smiles in her direction all evening.


309. Chili and corn muffins and fresh vegetables and pumpkin squares generously baked for us by our sister-in-law's mother

310. Experiencing for a few hours the home and town and life of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and niece (and a very good life it is)

311. Warm evening walk through the pretty little town they call home, savouring the last few minutes with them before piling back into the van for 3 1/2 more grueling hours of travel

312. The Farm in October...pumpkins, cornstalks, giant metal towers full of kernals...riding in the combine, feeling the grind of the amazing machine beneath me while it pulls in whole cornstalks and spits the millions of individual kernals into the bin

313. Coyote, sleek and golden, running reluctantly out from the last of the corn rows as his hiding place is swollowed up

314. Rabbit, jumping out at the last possible moment...so far still surviving coyete's hunt and combine's blades

315. Two boys in the pickup with Grandpa

316. Apple cider

317. Raindrop's new word, "Windy". "It's windy, Mom!"

318. Reunion with best friends from college...nine years since we were together, picking up where we left off, wishing the hours would stretch a little to allow more time together.

319. A whole weekend with one of them, and her boundless generosity and limitless energy and perpetual cheeriness haven't changed, and I soak her in, and watch my kids become acquainted with her, and give thanks to God for this unexpected gift of seeing her again.

320.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Peter Pan

Browsing the shelves of a bookstore several months ago on a rare day without the kids, I picked up a deep blue hardcover copy of Peter Pan. My boys had been playing Peter Pan daily since I had let them watch Disney's version, but I had never read the book and wondered if, as in most cases, it was better than the movie. I flipped open to the first chapter.

...Of course they lived at 14, and until Wendy came her mother was the
chief one. She was a lovely lady, with a romantic mind and such a sweet
mocking mouth. Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the
other, that come from the puzzling East, however many you discover there is
always one more; and her sweet mocking mouth had one kiss on it that Wendy could never get, though there it was, perfectly conspicuous in the right-hand
corner.
The way Mr Darling won her was this: the many gentlemen who had been boys
when she was a girl discovered simultaneously that they loved her, and they all
ran to her house to propose to her except Mr Darling, who took a cab and nipped
in first, and so he got her. He got all of her, except the innermost box
and the kiss. He never knew about the box, and in time he gave up trying
for the kiss. Wendy thought Napoleon could have got it, but I can picture
him trying, and then going off in a passion, slamming the door.

I could barely wait to read more, but I had several other books in progress, so although of course the book came home with me, I put it away in the hidden place where I keep gifts I have bought for the kids, and then forgot about it by the time my other books were finished. I pulled it out two nights ago when I was ready to wrap gifts for Christopher Robin, who turned 6 yesterday.

I had planned to read it aloud to him, because it has few pictures and 17 chapters. I bought a couple of other simpler books with pictures on every page for him to read to himself during rest time.

I was surprised how thrilled Peanut Butter was to be able to give the book to his brother as his gift. It was, after all, a book, not a toy. But it IS a beautiful blue, with even a matching blue ribbon attatched as a book mark, and they do love the story of Peter Pan. Peanut Butter chuckled with glee, chose some brown paper with brown and pink dots to wrap it in, and promised not to tell.

When Christopher Robin opened the book as his very first gift of his birthday, he seemed a little hesitant. I wasn't sure that was the best timing, since it was one of the few gifts he couldn't use right away, and at the beginning of the day it's fun to open something you can start playing with and enjoy all morning. But he flipped it open and looked quietly, then began reading silently to himself. I didn't tell him I was planning to read it aloud to him, and he took it over to the couch and read, not interested in anything else for a few minutes. He kept going back to it, and when he opened Billy and Blaze just before rest time, he left it on the floor and kept reading Peter Pan.

I knew it would come, but it surprised me still. It's as though he slipped quietly through the door of chapter books and left me behind... I still haven't read Peter Pan, and he's delving into the world silently, alone.

I have long been thinking that I would soon be spending most of my reading time trying to keep up with books he's reading. There are so many worlds open to him now, and I want to be sure he's keeping out of the sordid and dangerous ones, and keep him supplied with the ones that are heroic and honest and true. But now the time is here, I feel a little breathless with the surprise and also apprehension. The older, he gets the less I can control what he's exposed to, and although I love to see him reach new heights and open new worlds, I wish I could always direct him to the good and the true.

I know my direct influence dwindles as his world expands, so I find myself more and more on my knees, asking, begging God to show Himself to my son, and to watch over him and guide him to people who will teach him good things and inspire him to devote his life to worship of our mighty God, the Lord of Heaven's Armies, and courageous obedience to Him.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

September gifts

292. the discipline of vigilance to keep the two-year-old out of trouble while homeschooling the oldest

293. chilly legs in fall's cool air, and snuggling in soft warm clothes feels good again

294. address labels stuck all over little girl legs and skirt and shirt

295. gingersnaps

296. freshly-vacuumed carpet

297. Dare to Discipline... how helpful it is to be reminded about these basic principles

298. spending evenings with my sister, and how she, too, loves watching and rewatching Pride and Prejudice

299. stacking wood, all five of us that make up this family, on Labor Day

300. boys determined to make their muscles bigger by carrying the heaviest pieces of wood they can find

301. oldest boy who kept stacking until every piece of the generous cord of wood was stacked high

302. words printed on pages

303. The Moon of the Monarch Butterflies...I never knew...how miraculous, how magical, the migration of the monarchs

304. summer: full of events and visits from family, green, alive, fresh, hot, camping in tents, trips to the beach, slip'n'slide play, tending the garden, swinging daily the little girl who loves to "'wing", evening walks, marshmallow roasts, family trips to new places

305. fall: cool and warm mingle and swirl, promise of short days and long cozy evenings to sew and maybe learn to knit and organize and read good books

306. "I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again." John 6:35 NLT

307. "People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life." John 4:13-14 NLT

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Story of the Schaeffers

I knew that I had come to be shown something more of how God works, making
His strength perfect in weakness, as well as to give some answers to
people eager to ask. God is very merciful to us in continuing to help us
to grow, to teach us more of how He works, to give us a growing closeness to
Himself and fresh glimpses of reality. Such things are exciting to me, but
they do not come from "nine to five" in neat little packages of time, when our
energy is fresh, when we have had enough sleep, exercise, and a balanced
meal!
This is not to say that exercise, proper food, sleep, and some sort of a
balanced schedule are not important, but we each need to recognize the Lord's
interruptions when they come, and DO what He is giving us to DO. We are
not in a union! Gideon's battle with so few men and such strange weapons
was not exactly a soothing night's sleep. Nor were Paul's shipwrecks,
beatings, imprisonments, stonings, lack of food and sleep all listed in a
preplanned schedule. So often in history the excitement of seeing and
being a part of God's work is accompanied by afflictions and persecutions and a
diversity of true hardships.
Turning a few pages to find out what happened "next," what happened in the
last twenty-three years, is not really possible if one were not reminded that it
takes twenty-three years to understand and feel the pain, fears,
uncertainties, shocks, and the constant waiting. One can't wait "with
patience" without a period of time that threatens to destroy all patience, that
slowly brings an increasing impatience. Condensed pages of "skimming" the
years may give a false impression...each year is made up of 365 twenty-four-hour
days!
~Edith Schaeffer, L'Abri

These paragraphs are from the end of Edith Schaeffer's book describing the journey she and her husband, Francis Schaeffer, and her family took as they blindly, in faith, followed God's leading, resulting in a cluster of chalets in Switzerland where people from all over the world found their way to stay for a time and listen to answers to their questions and discussions about God and truth. The book is called, L'Abri, which is the name they gave their chalets, the French word for shelter.
What struck me as I read their story was how God led them in a way similar to how He led Abraham, making his will known to them a step at a time as they humbly obeyed in faith, without knowing His ultimate plan. Their story echoes so many other stories I've read of people used in mighty ways by God, people whose lives produced fruit a hundred fold. Prayer, humility, steps of faith, persistent obedience in doing what He calls us all to do, sacrificing their own comforts in service to others, welcoming with generous hospitality all He brought to their doors, and then, at certain moments, stepping into the unknown towards impossible things as He led them. The remarkable results of their life work seem to come from opennes to HIS plan (not concocting their own...they had ideas of what He might want them to do, but they let Him show them incrementally, and never professed to know where it would all lead), fervent prayer whenever they felt lost or up against impossible obstacles or had important decisions to make, and selfless service to others. That struck me deeply as I read the story from Edith's perspective. She never complained about the work, just mentioned in passing once towards the beginning of the story how some people's responding to her husband's conversation with them by coming to joyful faith in Christ erased the resentment she had been feeling about having to work through the whole long discussion. She was the hostess to countless guests who found their way to the "shelter." The Schaeffers didn't have an income other than what God provided for them, so much of their food was grown in gardens and made from scratch. When I think of all the meals she planned and organized and served day in and day out, I'm awed. She raised her four children and travelled with her husband and shared his work load and contributed to the ministry and held conversations with guests and workers who were helping in the gardens and with the meals. She never glossed over how much work it was or what sacrifice was required, but it was never a complaining or resentful spirit coming through her story. When she talked about the challenge it was to have a "family life" with such a steady stream of guests always in their home, she acknowledged that the challenges were real and not always solved. But the main story consists of the miracles, of God showing Himself and His will to them through supernatural workings of circumstances and situations and changed lives. She talks often of the joy of living a life where God kept showing to them that He is REAL.
I kept feeling so thankful, as I read their story, to be able to know some of the details about how God leads people. Their story is so different from other ones I've led in the kind of ministry they had, one of hospitality on Edith's part, and introducing intellectuals to the logic, coherency, and truth of Christianity on Francis's part. But it's the same story, too. People who chose to listen to God and obey his leading in faith finding themselves at the end of their lives having helped, changed, influenced, encouraged more people than they could ever know about.

Monday, June 7, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird

I'm pretty sure my five year old boy thinks the book I was reading aloud to his daddy was about different ways to slaughter birds, but it's actually a warm, human, touching story that I fell in love with all over again when I read it as the last of my three-book reading spree, and then again to My Hero because he'd never read it.

Atticus, the father in the story, is the kind of man I hope my boys will be someday, and he actually reminds me some of my dad. Especially last night, when my dad was pitying my younger brothers, who are just 16 and 12, for having such an old father. When my older brother and I were growing up, he was younger than most of my friends' dads, but there are 20 years between my older brother and my youngest brother, and by the time the two youngest came along, my dad had more wisdom and experience than almost all the other dads of young boys out there. He joked that he had lots of experience, but he'd run out of energy. Atticus bows out of the more demanding athletic events available to him by saying he's too old, and his kids pity themselves for having such an old father. The irony, of course, is that he's the best kind of father a kid could have, as I'm sure they begin to realise by the end of the story.

I'm finding myself at a loss to talk much more about the story. I could give an outline, but that would be flat and empty. It's the characters and humor and depth of development that make the book so wonderful, and I can't recap that. Just know that if you're looking for a book to read or reread this summer, this one will not disappoint.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

That was the second book of my three-novel reading spree. Here's how I decided to read this one: I checked the Midday Connection Book Club page to see what book we would be reading next. It was a novel I had read in high school English and loved. Excited that I already owned a copy and knowing it was worth rereading after such a long time, I made a mental note. A few days later I went to my bookshelves to pick it out, and had a sudden confusion. Was the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or To Kill a Mockingbird? Both I head read in high school English, both I had loved... I debated for a minute, then decided it was definitely A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Part way through the book I returned to the book club page to print off the discussion questions, and saw to my dismay that I had begun reading the wrong book. The book club book was To Kill a Mockingbird. Not dismay about the book, because I loved it, but dismay that I might not have time to read both, and I was far enough into A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to be unwilling to set it down to start another story. I decided I would simply have to finish A Tree Grows in Brooklyn quickly and then read To Kill a Mockingbird. Turns out it really wasn't a problem finishing them both in the couple of weeks I had left before the book club discussion (to hear the discussion, including comments contributed by this shy but avid reader, simply click the listen link next to the To Kill a Mockingbird title.) Here's the kicker. At the end of the program they announced the next book club book to read during the summer: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Francie has far from ideal parents, but again I found myself closely observing the ways they dealt with their children, good and bad, especially Katie Nolan, Francie's mother. Francie's father is a charming, well-meaning man who can't hold a steady job and drinks too much. Katie shoulders the responsibility of the family, and she's described as made of steel. She has high standards, does everything as well as she can, works hard constantly, loves her children. I'm filled with admiration for her and feel irritated and impatient with Francie's father for his weakness and irresponsibility. But Francie loves her father better. I think there's a softness, and understanding in him towards Francie that Katie doesn't have.

The tree is a kind of tree that grows in the slums of New York. It grows where nothing else will, and in the end of the book, after men had cut it down to make room for electrical wires, it grew back, shooting up in a spot where it wouldn't be in the way, persisting, determined to live and thrive. It's a picture, I think, of the Nolan family, maybe Francie specifically.

There is so much richness in the characters and their relationships with each other I feel completely inadequate to describe or relate, but I feel strengthened, somehow, after reading the story. It's a story of survival, I guess, and hope.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Little Women

I haven't visited this place for...a month. First I went on a reading spree...three fun novels in the matter of a few weeks. And after those were finished...it's (nearly) summer, and summer fills up with a hundred miscellaneous and wonderful activities (that, if you don't watch out, end up crowding out the best life has to offer...have to be so careful not to over commit myself.)

Today I intend to get my garden in. If not fully, then at least mostly. So a brief composition, then outside to dirt and sunshine.

The first book in my reading spree of three:
Inspired by a play performed by the high school drama class of one of my dearest friends, I picked up the book Little Women and read through it in about a week. The story felt so familiar to me, I was surprised to realize I had only read it once, long ago in elementary school. I loved it then, but of course had forgotten so many details... My most vivid memories about my first reading was looking ahead and seeing to my dismay an illustration of Jo rejecting Laurie's proposal. Later I plagued my enjoyment of the story again by absent-mindedly picking up a copy of the book in my school library, flipping through it, and accidentally reading about Jo and Professor Baehr. I had just met him in my actual reading of the book, and the idea that she would end up with that old man horrified me. Happily, by the time I read through the story to where she did end up with him, my mind was entirely changed and I could accept their union with gladness.

This time, reading through, I found myself watching Marmee carefully, and being impressed by how she interacted with her girls. I feel such chagrin and embarrassment when my kids misbehave, such responsibility to steer them rightly when they are doing something wrong. I know my kids are very young, and the girls in Little Women are well on their way to becoming ladies, but I realized there is something wholesome and good about the way Marmee accepts each of them with all their little foibles, saves most of her advice for times when they directly ask for it, finds ways to teach them indirectly through circumstances rather than lectures, and lets time bring them round to talk through things when they're ready rather than jump and worry about each little mishap. It has helped me relax a bit with my own kids, accept that each of them will have their own weaknesses and will never achieve perfection, and see that maybe setting a good example for them, being open about my own struggles in my journey to become like Christ, and finding ways to inspire them to want what's right will be more effective than trying to talk them into doing the right thing in each little situation that arises and feeling the need to correct each small infraction.

That's all for now. Time to give my seeds a start in this already hot and dry late-spring.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Books!

Every day this week (except Sunday, of course) I have opened my mailbox and seen a package or two sitting inside (or once, perched, balancing, atop the mailbox because my Dad, who usually delivers our mail and always brings the too-big packages directly to my door, was adventuring (and ministering) in the rainforests of Brazil). It's a highlight to any day to open the mailbox and see a package squatting inside. It always makes my heart leap a little, wondering what it is, even when it's something I myself have ordered just a few days ago.
In this case, the packages contained books, the very best thing a package could hold. Books piling up in a stack on my bedroom floor.
That stack of books is the gate to the world of First Grade.
Part of me wants to haul Christopher Robin into my lap today and begin reading the first chapter of The Story of the World and give him his All About Spelling beginning assessment. But we thrive on a little structure, and I want to start well, so I will collect all the books, and form a plan for our days, and then, at the right time, we will start. I want the excitement of new books and new subjects to help provide the momentum to establish a routine for our days that will keep us going strong all year.
I bought some books for Peanut Butter, too. His very own handwriting book, because he likes to trace letters, and I figure if he likes to, I'll let him learn. And I think I'll order him a meeting book for Saxon K math. That begins in September, and the program is so simple, really far beneath Christopher Robin's ability (though we'll stick it out and finish it through June because he has learned things from it) that I feel like it'll be about right for Peanut Butter at the age of 4.
For Christopher Robin I have A Beka math, Zaner-Bloser handwriting, English for the Thoughtful Child, All About Spelling, Story of the World: Ancient Times, and for science The Usborne Illustrated Encycopedia of the Natural World, The Human Body, and other books I plan to gather as needed from the library. I also need a decent globe, a world map, and a map of the United States. I'm not sure where to put them, though. Do I really need to dedicate a wall of my house to a map / maps? On the other hand, I love maps, and love how handy wall maps are, because you can see the big picture but also stand close to see small details. I'll be mulling over this for a while...
Peanut Butter has been learning his letters and what sounds they make this year. Just last week he read his first book. Since then, he's been reading a page at a time, not usually enthusiastically, but capably. It's a lot like Christopher Robin started...excitedly finishing a whole book the first time, but then not excited to tackle new ones. I remember for Christopher Robin, reading was exhausting mental effort when he was three. I didn't push it, but brought the books out from time to time to help him practice. He was four when he read through all the Bob books we had, and I ordered more sets for him, and more sets until we had finished them all. By that time, reading was easy for him, and he started reading everything. Remembering that, I've been doing one page at a time with Peanut Butter. One or two words. Eventually it will click and feel easy, and then he'll be unstoppable.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Unprocessed Scripture

Processed foods are natural foods (mostly corn and soybeans, since those are what our agricultural system is set up (and encouraged through government subsidies) to produce in vast quantities) broken down, separated, and put back together into thousands of different (and far less nutritious, largely because of the lack of variety in the foods we eat, since so much comes from those two kinds of plants, and also because of all the added fat and sugar in processed food) shapes and kinds of foods that line our grocery store shelves. So I understand based on Michael Pollan's books The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and I keep hearing echos of those ideas from sources all around me. The solution? Eat real food. Buy things that don't come in a package or from a factory, but from a garden or field. Even meat should come from pastures and wild waters rather than feed lots or fish farms. Garden. Shop farmer's markets and local farms. Find sources nearby for food that doesn't go through restructuring or human manipulation before it comes into your home.

I'm realising there may be parallels here with feeding myself and my children on God's Word. I have felt real hesitation and intimidation trying to explain God and his ways to my kids. I don't understand Him, and when they start asking me questions, I realise I understand Him even less than I feel like I do. The simple teaching "God made everything" becomes complicated and muddled when Christopher Robin attributes an imperfect dust pan to God ("No one can make a perfectly straight dust pan, but God made this one pretty good," he said today as he swept up crumbs from under the table). Part of my hesitation is that I don't want to pass on my own misunderstandings to them. I know I have biases and blind spots in my faith, and I wish they could grow up without inheriting them from me and being hampered by the same wrong perspectives. Part of it is that my own love for and passion for God is/was dulled by always hearing about it growing up. Maybe not from hearing real truth, but certainly by moralising Sunday School stories that were essentially the same week after week in the Sunday School papers...hearing the same things retold and retold, especially watered-down versions that didn't hold much inspiring substance to begin with. Most of scripture seems so far above my 5 and 3 year old boys' understandings, but I'm always afraid that by simplifying things to try to make it more on their level, I'm leaving out things that are important. I picked up a children's Bible story book in Walmart, and it had some nice stories and mentioned Jesus, but it didn't even tell about Jesus' death and resurrection. I guess that seems like "processing" God's Word to make it more palatable. I've read the story of David and Goliath from I Samuel 17 to my boys probably 50 times (because they ask for it over and over), and it's inspiring to me almost every time I read it. And it's gory. It ends with David taking Goliath's sword and using it to kill him and cut off his head. But I feel a lot of confidence reading straight from the Bible to my kids. It feels healthy, like feeding them an apple. Maybe reading God's Word to my kids is like feeding them whole, real food.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Changing me

Life is never as simple as following a formula.

I held Peanut Butter this morning for a little while, talking to him, keeping him warm in his blanket, enjoying him and filling his love tank.

The rest of the morning did not go smoothly. He cried and begged for help with his one daily chore, emptying the silverware from the dishwasher.
He begged me to sit and hold him during breakfast. I had already eaten and had my own list of things pressing to get done.
He cried about getting dressed, even though I helped him with all of it and then wrapped him in his cozy blanket again. He sat at the table in front of his untouched breakfast and cried.

It was a rough start to the morning.

Still, I tried to find ways to connect with him and times to hold him throughout the day, and by the end of it I'm feeling like things are better between us. I should have known it wouldn't be a simple, one-step fix, and maybe really not a fix at all, just an improvement in the relationship between mother and son, better, more understanding and loving responses on my part to his emotional meltdowns and loud demands, a development of self-control, patient endurance, and godliness in this mother, who can then model those things for her kids, and maybe help them more easily believe in Jesus.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Melting Peanut Butter

He lost us at church yesterday, my second boy, middle child, the one with loudest cry and strongest passions and most demands. I signed the two boys into their class, even though they begin the service in the auditorium where I am, up front in a cluster of their classmates to sing with us a few songs before they leave for their own stories and activities. Then I headed to the nursery across the room to deposit Raindrop with the babies. Christopher Robin followed me in and helped put the numbered tag on her diaper bag, then we went out to collect Peanut Butter and head for the auditorium. He was where I had left him, face in hands, bent over a bench, crying. Quietly, because, passionate as he is, he is closed, silent, and reserved around strangers. I knelt and pulled his hands from his tear streaked cheeks and hugged and listened while he told me he didn't want Christopher Robin to leave him there alone, and I apologized and told him we were just through the door in the nursery, and lifted his sturdy three year old body and took him to the front row of the auditorium where the kids all collect, set him beside Christopher Robin in a seat, showed him where I would be at the front, singing, and asked Christopher Robin to please hold his hand on the way back to their class when the time came, just for a little added comfort and security.
It was most of the way through the third song that I heard Peanut Butter's wail and realized that the tears of a little while ago had returned and taken over and washed his self-possession away. I saw one of his teachers pick him up and lead all the children back towards their class area. Songs ended, I found a seat in the back next to My Hero, who was manning the screen for the service. They came and got me then, to rescue my puddled three year old, who was still beyond recovery. He sighed with relief to be held in my arms, and when I promised to hold him in my arms through the service if he could quiet his sobbing, he swallowed again and again and held his peace. As I listened to our pastor explain the Holy Spirit as our guarantee of salvation, I thought about Peanut Butter's emotional instability and the rushing of getting ready for church on Sunday morning and the many sleepy mornings when he just wants me to hold him and I nudge him to make his bed and empty the silverware tray of the dishwasher and eat breakfast and get dressed. I think of the 5 love languages and wonder if his is touch or quality time... And I wonder how much it would help him want to do what's right, how much it would help my relationship with him, if I took the time to hold him and snuggle with him for a few minutes in the mornings to let him know he's important to me and that I love him. Too often these days I see him look at me with challenge and rebellion, even dislike, and I know that will happen sometimes, that he doesn't like the rules I lay down or the consequences I apply, but I sense an imbalance... like maybe he isn't as sure about my unconditional love for him as he should be. Like he needs to know I'm on his team and I'm cheering for him and the things he does matter because I love him so much.
I wonder if some time on my lap wrapped in a blanket reading a book or talking in the morning might have helped prevent yesterday's meltdown.

Focus for today: Make sure my kids know how much they are loved.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

learning flowers

Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes.
Proverbs 19:2
My friends and I have been reading the book of Proverbs for our LTG these last two weeks, and one of my friends laughingly mentioned the verse above in relation to her family's current (and very first) experience with buying and fixing up a house.
The same applies to me and my gardening. Although I have to say, of all my mistakes, haste has not been the issue...it was several years of planning and dreaming and waiting for the money and missing the cut-off date for ordering bulbs and deciding to prepare the beds better by letting them cook under weed barrier cloth all summer to kill all the weeds and planning some more before I finally took the plunge last fall and bought plants to fill the flower beds in front of my house. I have done reading and learning and planning and soaking myself in lovely pictures of flower gardens from Better Homes and Gardens magazines, but I still feel as though I know very little, really, about what it takes to make a beautiful flower garden. Last fall we filled the van with pots of mostly brown, dying plants from a local nursery and I lovingly planted them spaced according to the directions into the prepared dirt. A few were still blooming bursts of color, but mostly it looked like I had filled the space with ugly, dying plants few and far between. I dug holes and put clusters of bulbs in empty spots, and watched as cold weather came and browned the remaining green leaves, and snow came and flattened the stems and leaves as if they had been stepped on, and waited full of hope for spring. They tell me, I've read, been reassured, that spring will bring these lifeless twigs to life again, and in my imagination, the house is adorned by a necklace of pinks and blues and lavender.
Spring is here, and life is evident at the base of nearly all my plants, and the beds pull me towards them like magnets whenever I step outside, and I have to check, peeping at the base of dead brown for sights of fuzzy gray/green shoots, smiling with satisfaction at the green buds unfurling leaves on the wild rose bushes I had transplanted from the edge of my grandfather's field, the ones I had watched turn brown and die in the weeks after the transplant, and with them my expectations of them bearing for me their pretty pink buds in early summer died too. But this spring they surprised me with enthusiastic life, and tulips burst up from underground hybernation, and I watch with fascination the slow, steady changes to all the different types of flowering plants in those beds.
Still the beds aren't much to look at, and I expect every year I'll find things to add and tweak and move around before I really like the way it looks. Most of the plants are ones I haven't actually seen in real life, just read descriptions and saw pictures in books or on the tags in their pots. So I feel as though I am rich in enthusiasm and still very poor in knowledge. But I'm highly optimistic that in...five, maybe ten years I will have a well-loved and familiar flower garden at either side of my front door.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Just more things I'm glad about...

282. My sister who comes and spends evenings with me (and plays with my kids and helps put away supper dishes)

283. My sister who is coming from Chicago on Saturday and bringing my dear little niece

284. 70 degree weather day after day at the beginning of April

285. Perennials planted last fall that withered and died and now are coming to life again to fill the long dreamed of and carefully planned flower beds in front of my house

286. Two new nephews, four days apart, my own two brothers' firstborn sons

287. Morning run, outside, cool fresh air, stillness, cows beside me just behind the fence watching with their round staring eyes, birds chirping excitedly ("can you believe the days are this warm in April??")

288. Picnic lunch by a waterfall

289. Enthusiastic boys too unafraid of the danger of falling off the rocks into the raging rapids ("Can we jump across to the other side, Mom?" "No, it's too far. Not even Daddy could do that." "Then, can you throw us across?")

290. Cinnamon rolls premade for breakfast tomorrow

291. Early bedtime...not for the kids, but for the parents

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

17 more reasons to thank Him

265. As I fold laundry, Raindrop picks up a washcloth and rubs it across pursed lips as if cleaning her face after mealtime. Then she hands it to me to fold.

266. Two girls, one from rural Maine and one from, well, Russia originally, but travelling from her parents' home in Oregon, met in the middle, in booming Chicago, four years forming friendship, studying, attending theater, arranging visits with beloved professors, writing papers through the night and right up until 10 minutes before class, racing to the computer lab to print them off, student teaching together, travelling east to Maine and then later west to Washington and Oregon and California... unforgettable friendship, leaving this girl from rural Maine forever changed.

267. The hope of one day meeting again, and introducing my children to her.

268. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, washed down with chocolate milk

269. Baby girl's cries, awake too early from naptime, and the realisation that my subconscious has been hearing the warbling song of a harmonica playing (loudly) from the kids' bedroom. Taking the harmonica away from three year old boy, settling blanket over wide awake little girl, and twenty minutes later, realising with relief that all is quiet.

270. A fire to feed, flames welcomly hot near cold fingers, warming this chilly house on a cold gray wet day.

271. Plans for raking and outside sunshine maybe tomorrow if forecast holds true and spring sunshine warms us again!

272. quiet

273. cheer

274. Other moms whose stories make me feel understood.

275. Hearing the choking caugh last night just in time to wisk baby Raindrop from her crib to the bathroom sink, saving the clean sheets and blankets of her bed from needing to be changed again during phase 2 of the stomach flu.

276. Pale five year old, restless and lethargic this morning, requesting another Paddington story read aloud to him. Three times. The (secretly delightful) sacrifices a mother makes for her children.

277. the book of Proverbs

278. That I don't have to let selfishness or the quest for pleasure be my master. I can lift my eyes up and let the High King be my master, and go where that path takes me.

279. Raindrop sees me finish putting dishes into the dishwasher, so she, with a look of importance, pushes the bottom shelf in (first! to save dishes from crashing), closes the door with a click, and applauds herself, watching expectantly for my joining her in the applause.

280. Dollar store loot... five dollars worth for each boy, spending their own money: two plastic bats with balls, one water squirting tube, two 25 piece puzzles, a small toy rhinoceros, two packages of glow sticks, a package of yellow marshmallow Peeps, and a box of Nerds.

281. Five-year-old generously sharing a pink glow-bracelet with baby sister, who lovingly admires it on her wrist, in the semi-darkness of bedtime.

Monday, March 29, 2010

sick day

The flu struck yesterday...a stomach virus, to all three little ones.

Today is recovery day. We did minimal schooling, and now is time for quiet, stay at home fun. On the agenda:
  • Super Mario Bros. wii
  • Paddington stories
  • Reading through library books
  • Games/puzzles

We're currently working on the first.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Neat as a Pin

When the kitchen island is finally clear of clutter, just my daily journal laying open neatly to remind me of priorities, and the kitchen table is clear and gleaming, peace settles into me, and I realise again how neatness and simplicity improves life for me.

"I need to focus on that," I tell myself, and determine that each area I leave, I will leave beautiful, tidy, cared for. "That," I explain to myself, "will help my attitude all day long."

It's true, life seems better, easier, when things are in their place, when I come out in the early morning to a restful, orderly house, a wide, clean carpet surrounded by neatly arranged furniture, a blank table ready for my Bible and journal and books. It is without question a better way to start the day than when chaos left over from the day before fills my mind with unfinished tasks when it should be clear for stillness and hearing His quiet voice.

But hours later, growling and frustrated by the impossibility of my goal, at the continual messes constantly being created (and recreated...I just picked that up!!) by three separate persons with no notion of my personal priorities readjusted, three little people just living life as any children would, I realise my goal has not brought peace, but more anger and bad attitudes than before.

My heavenly Father, as I continually beg Him for wisdom, gently restores perspective. Reminds me that, while neatness can be a goal, and an excellent habit to train children in, it can never be a highest priority. Joy comes from doing each task, not for a continually clean home, but for Him. Peace comes from resting in His wisdom rather than trying to fight the battle on my own. Life comes from seeing each task, from cooking breakfast to brushing little girl's hair to cleaning up the horrible mess of spattered corn meal mush caused by my own clumsy fingers dropping the bowl, cleaning it from windows, walls, floor, and furniture, as a work of love for His glory. From seeing the purpose of trying moments, trying days, in helping produce patient endurance.

I have three precious children, I remind myself. Drink them in! Teach them neatness as consistently as possible, yes, for the improved quality of all of our life, for the glory of God, who orders and creates beauty, but don't ever lose sight of the main goal, to love God, and to lead these three little people to know Him and love Him, too.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Love is in the air...

...because spring is here!

And I'm in love with my tiny crocusses...

My very first.
I think I may plant them in a million new places next fall...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thanks in Mexico

248. for bluest ocean


249. for wide white beach


250. for shallow pools perfect for little non-swimmers


251. for warm sun


252. for bright flowers in March!


253. for little girl walking with her daddy


254. for morning breakfast, just My Hero and I, relaxed, quiet, calm...while three noisy ones follow morning adventures with doting grandparents


255. for morning coffee


256. for pastries drizzled with dulce de leche


257. for 5 year old taking Spanish lessons by the pool


258. for used plates and empty wrappers swept away by smiling waiters almost before we're done with them


259. for "hola" and "buenos dias" and every kind greeting offered by maids and hotel workers every time we pass them in the hallways


260. for the lovely lengua del cielo spoken all around us


261. for the quiet hours of naptime in darkened hotel room


262. for chapters of Grandfather Frog before naptime in which neither Longlegs the Blue Heron nor Whitetail the Marsh Hawk breakfast on a sleepy Grandfather Frog thanks to Jerry Muskrat's warning tail-slap on the water


263. for white marble floors and clean soft white beds


264. for long walks across beaches and sleepy kids melting like ice cream in the hot sun into puddles of sleeping mounds to be scooped into arms of family and carried the rest of the way

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Life

I can understand taking a tree, sawing it into boards, and using the boards to build a piece of furniture. Or a home. I marvel at a completed room or a well-designed chair, sturdy, comfortable, beautiful.

I can wrap my mind around using pulp from trees or plants to make paper. And using papers rainbowed with color to make stationary and greeting cards and scrapbooks of memories. I can linger over pieces of paper, drinking in colors and designs.
I can relate when I watch an artist create a picture from a few raw materials, turning blank into stunning. I'm not an artist, but a few times when a project turned out better than I even imagined it could, I think that's how great artists must feel about their work.

I take the marvelous into my own hands when I drill holes into trees, collect the sap, boil it down and preserve it in jars... delicious sweetness made of nothing but tree nectar. Every Februrary my pulse quickens with excitement to participate in the miraculous again.

But some miracles I can't begin to understand or participate in. These miracles are so beyond me that trying to figure them out leaves me simply shaking my head at my own limits, and praising in awe God, the Artist.

A tiny brown seed put into wet dirt, in four days pushes itself up as a slender green sprout reaching for sunlight. It grows steadily until, by fall, its fat stem lifts highest leaves chest high, its thick branches requiring a frame support to keep from toppling the plant because they bear heavy red tomatoes hundreds of times the size of the tiny seed the bore this plant.

The long stretched out arm of my littlest one dangles from the crib as she sleeps. Just 19 months ago her whole body was small enough to fit inside my skin, and now her legs run her around wherever she tells them to go. Her eyes furrow as she teaches her fingers to fit shapes into holes. Her feet stamp and her body dances "no" when her sturdy will is crossed, and she gently strokes with soft fingers and leans her silky head into my neck in apology when she has forgotten herself and roughly swiped my face. This little one, where did she come from? A tiny seed too small to see.

Some works I can see the process for and understand how they come to be, marvelous as they are. Works by mankind. But His works are too wonderful for me. I can't do anything but blink back tears of awe. Incomprehensible miracles in every plant and animal, bird, fish, and person on this earth.

No wonder the angels never stop singing his praise.

Friday, March 12, 2010

about books

We took an outing to the library this evening. I intended it to be a late afternoon trip, but by the time I finished gathering sap and baking the bread and cleaning up the flour and dishes from breadmaking and then getting socks and shoes and sweatshirts (yes, sweatshirts today instead of coats!), we pulled out of the driveway at almost 5:00. And since the library is nearby, we pulled into the nearly deserted library parking lot a few minutes before 5:00, and it suddenly occurred to me that today is Friday, and the library closes early on Friday evenings. I warned the kids that we may have to just drop the books off without time to browse for new ones, but when we got to the door I was relieved to see that the library didn't close until 6:00. We spent the next forty minutes in the comfortable familiarity of the children's area downstairs, choosing books, playing with toys, and coloring pictures.

I let each boy choose three books, and Christopher Robin chose a board book for Raindrop, too. And I found three of my own choosing for them, so our library book bag was full, which is somewhat illogical because we'll be on vacation for most of the next two weeks, and won't be bringing the books with us.

Not entirely illogical, though. We spent the evening after supper reading library books. I let the boys take turns choosing which books to read, and Peanut Butter, each time he was given the choice, chose the board book we'd checked out for Raindrop. Thankfully it was short and simple, so I didn't mind reading it over and over. It was a fairly good evening, though Raindrop was fussy and I had to read loudly over her fussing most of the time.

The kids were in bed before 8:00, which meant that we had time to read a chapter from The Adventures of Little Joe Otter in which one of the otter children lost his toe. He had ignored his father's warning and got his toe caught in a trap; his only choice was to jerk himself away, leaving his toe behind, or lose his life when the trapper came back. Christopher Robin's eyes were wide with horror as I read the story, but I was wishing Peanut Butter was following the story a little more closely. He's the one of my children who would ignore his father's warnings, but he's only three, and from the way he was standing on his head on his bed and chattering with Raindrop I could tell the moral of the story was entirely lost on him.

Tonight I'm thankful for books. For stories, for pages, for pictures. For adventures journeyed together, exotic lands experienced simultaneously, each absorbing at our unique levels, each living the stories in our own imaginations all at once. I remember life's brevity, and I drink deeply of this evening of togetherness in books.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It begins...

After I put the kids to bed Friday evening, I dragged myself to the desk chair and, weary and drained, sluggishly considered a few different ways to spend the last couple of hours of my day. I had watched three extra kids for most of the day, and my energy tank, which is always low by 8:00 PM, was dry. I thought about putting Pride and Prejudice in the DVD player and crocheting for a while... the most relaxing way I could think of to spend the evening. I also thought about picking up The Well-Trained Mind to begin planning out Christopher Robin's first grade year and determining which textbooks and resources I'll want to buy. That didn't seem like a probable way to spend the evening at first; after all, it came right off my to-do list for the week. But all it really involved was lifting the book from the desk and getting a pen and paper. Besides, it peaked my interest, and I felt a little energy come back. I opened the book and began to read about teaching reading and grammar to a first grader, and passion and excitement flooded my empty tank. I stayed awake past 10 PM reading in bed, not wanting to tear my drooping eyes away from the pages, willing myself to stay awake to read more of the deliciousness. I'm not sure what it is about the planning that so energizes me, but I think it's related to the same quickening of the pulse Christopher Robin feels when presented with a brand new workbook. I gave him an A Beka Numbers K workbook for Christmas because I was dissatisfied with how easy and slow his Saxon Math K program was, and he has finished the whole book in just over two months. Well, all but the last 6 Appendix worksheet pages. He plans to polish those off tomorrow. He has learned how to add, subtract, tell time, and count with money at lightening speed, without very much of my assistance. Hence, me beginning to plan his first grade year. I don't think it will wait for September. He and I are bookish people. He thanked me, the other day, for giving the book to him for Christmas. How many years, I smilingly ask myself, will I be able to get away with getting him a math book for Christmas?

Last night I read about first grade history, which will cover the ancient world, roughly 5000 B.C. - A.D. 400. It involves reading simplified versions of original sources such as Homer's The Illiad, ancient Greek mythology, and the Bible (which I already read aloud to them without simplification), as well as biographies of ancient people such as Hammurabi, King David, Pythagoras, and Virgil. I plan on learning at least as much as Christopher Robin does. I was a little disappointed to learn that Latin studies don't begin until 3rd grade, but I suppose I will have enough to concentrate on these first couple of years. I'd like to begin teaching both boys some piano once our basement room is finished and we get the piano tuned.

Classical education structures itself around history, and divides the 12 years of school into three stages: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The first four years, grades 1-4, are the grammar stage, where we concentrate on accumulating facts and mastering the basics of reading, grammar, and math. The next four years teach the art of arguing and reasoning, asking why. And the rhetoric years begin developing self expression and focussing in on areas of strength, tackling higher math and delving deep into great works of literature. Classical education relies heavily on reading, which suits me well, and the cohesiveness of structuring all subjects following chronological history makes good sense to me. I have long been frustrated by my own lack of understanding of where things belong on the timeline of history, and I'm hopeful that progressing from ancient history through modern times three complete times will give my kids a much better grasp of how our world has progressed through time and which major events follow which than I ever had.

If only house cleaning got me this excited...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

He redeems

Chaos built as I cut out the iron-on letters. Three names to spell and center on tote bags before ironing. I was trying to figure out which names we had enough letters for and trying to keep the little girl from chewing or peeling or losing the letters, and trying to keep the older boys from the same. My calm remonstrances turned sharp when the baby girl didn't listen, and frustration mounted past boiling as I despaired of the chaos and begrudged the project and muttered and moaned my angst.

I knew all along I was being ugly, but then my consciences grabbed me and held me up to myself and made me see that I owed my three a humble apology. I calmed down, I regained a perspective that put the project way down low on the priority ladder and patience and love for my kids, modeling Christ, back up at the top. And I told them I had been wrong to lose patience and apologized.

Their sweet response soothed like cool lotion. They were relieved at my admitting that my words and attitude were not right. As though understanding that shifted the world back into shape for them.

I don't like to acknowledge that my impatience and losing control shapes their world and how they respond to frustration, but I know it does. I beg forgiveness from my perfect Father and begin again.

Love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8

"Which color would you like?" I asked Christopher Robin, and braced myself for him to choose the pink one instead of the green or the blue. "I want the pretty blue one," he decided, and I smiled. Then braced myself for Peanut Butter to want the same. "And which one would you like?" I asked him. "I would like the pretty green one."

That was easier than I expected.

"What would you like me to put on yours?" I asked Peanut Butter. I suggested a couple of different forms of his name. He thought a minute. "I would like mine to say, 'Red Toad'," he decided. Ah. I might have known. Super Mario Brothers wii has been part of their lives since they gave it to My Hero for Christmas, and even before when they were playing the same game 15 minutes a day on their Nintendo DS's from Grandma. It sparks almost all of their imaginative play, and they often correct me when I call them by name, and ask me to refer to them as Red Toad or Blue Toad or Yellow Toad or Mario or Luigi. Christopher Robin wanted his to say Red Toad plus his real name, but we didn't have enough letters for that, and I talked him into choosing a different name from Peanut Butter's, so he chose Blue Toad. Then Peanut Butter decided he wanted "Yellow Toad", but we didn't have enough letters for that, either, so he settled on Luigi. Raindrop's, of course, was Princess Peach, her designated roll whenever they think to give her one.

They love their new bags.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Brimming with thanks

231. Visiting sister, adored aunt to my kids, spending an afternoon mingling in our world

232. Granny's Tea Buiscuits for breakfast

233. Brown bag of oranges handed along with daily newspaper and a kind smile from my grandpa, freshly home from a week in Florida

234. Boys, industrius and determined, clearing the deck of snow, an act of compassion for our cat, whose distaste for walking through the cold wet crystals keeps him indoors at the window, longing for spring.

235. Tomato seeds in pots of dirt

236. Garlic bed prepared in late fall, emerging as snow melts away

236. Natural archway gating the path into the woods to collect sap

237. Older brother putting crib together in preparation for his son

238. Walks through the woods in pre-spring weather

239. Afternoon tea tomorrow with two lovely friends

240. Words to pray, directing my thoughts and readjusting my attitudes morning and night

241. Library books bag stuffed full

242. Nutella

243. Fresh clean budget sheet for brand new month

244. Worship practice tonight

245. Conscience pricking sharp as mind slips indulgently to self-gratification revolving around ice cream, and a little more, and a little more...
"My child, don't ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don't be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children...For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they know how. But God's discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness." Hebrews 12:5-6,10

246. Cold sap pouring in clear, bubbling down to golden

247. Twelve sealed pint jars crowding my counter to drizzle pancakes with natural sweetness all the year long

Monday, March 1, 2010

No Bumbling

Christ, bleeding, agonized and brutalized, dying for unworthy me. My pastor brought us there yesterday, to the side of the hill on that dark afternoon when He suffered intentionally, willingly, and thereby broke death's power and brought freedom to the ones who choose Him, the ones He has chosen.
He told us the ugly, unusual story of Hosea and Gomer, the sickening story that weaves a golden thread of beauty right through the middle when Hosea loves Gomer and takes her back, because that's God loving his people and taking them back, shamed naked betrayers.

Suddenly I saw that God's love is the reason our lives should be extraordinary. A life so redeemed dare not bumble along in mediocrity. God's love sparks extraordinay trust, extraordinary obedience, extraordinary self-sacrifice. Even the normal moments of tending three little ones while they munch donuts and gulp juice after church...even these have been redeemed from puposelessness and despair. Even the hour of exhausted quiet before bed, even the hour before lunch when school books clutter the counter and I pick the dish towel off the floor and rehang it on the stove handle for the 37th time and baby girl pulls at my legs wailing to be carried around so she can see the world from a higher perspective and couch cushions bog up the living carpet and the fire in the basement woodstove needs more wood and the clean laundry pile mounts as I pull another load out of the dryer, even this hour deserves joy and fervency and songs of gratitude. There is no place in a life rescued from deserved death for wasted time, half-hearted attempts, sluggish self-indulgence.

God poured out his love for me. I am free to strip off every weight that slows me down, especially the sin that so easily trips me up, and run with endurance the race God has set before me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

If your goal is to clean up after yourself right away instead of leaving a mess for later, but you find yourself slinking off to indulge in some reading after supper instead of first doing the dishes, make sure you're slinking off to a Charlotte Mason book about forming habits. She'll prick you right back to those dishes before the food has time to harden on the plates.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My daughter's budding fashion sense

First, the hat. She wears it all day long. It coordinates with every outfit.

Then this morning she found her favorite striped shirt among the clean laundry.

She has no favorite pants, so at one point this morning she wore the hat, the shirt, her favorite pink socks, her favorite pink shoes, and a diaper. Wish I had a picture.

I'm sensing a bent towards bright colors.
Also towards warm and comfy. Her fleece jammies are her other favorite outfit.

And this jacket. It only comes off with tears.

wearing skin


"Everybody's wearing jammies except Raindrop. She's wearing 'kin." -Peanut Butter

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'poon, 'now, 'ticker

"I dropped my 'poon," Peanut Butter says at the supper table last night.
"Your poon?" I ask.
"Nooo. My ththththpoon," he corrects me.
I laugh and smile and accept his correction, and he smiles a little bashfully and then switches tactics.
"No, I mean poon. It's a poon."
"It's a poon?" I query.
"Yup, it's a poon." When he's not caught off guard, he'd rather insist that his way is right than that he's saying it wrong.

He makes me laugh, and I love his way of talking, with nary an "s", even though he can make the "s" sound. Sometimes it's clear, sometimes it's a lisp, but almost always it's dropped off the beginning of words. "Look outside! It's all 'nowy!" "This 'ticker doesn't 'tick." "I put it away 'ticking out so I would know where it was." I don't want him to talk like this forever, so I draw his attention to it when I think of it, but it's endearing, all the same.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Eyes wide open

210. bed posts

211. smooth sheets

212. warmth

213. sharp pencils

214. pink

215. upcoming vacation

216. smell of leather

217. birds chirping so loudly outside they can be heard through closed windows

218. crunchy snow

219. brown mud

220. soft round cheeks

221. sweaters

222. yarn

223. parents-in-law

224. shiny black shoes plopped in my lap by friends' daughter during comedy night ("see my shoes?" she whispered)

225. hot crusty bread

226. stone walls

227. chipmunks

228. song

229. vegetable seeds

230. paper

"Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anyone to realize you!" -Our Town, Thornton Wilder

Saturday, February 20, 2010

16 gallons

of maple elixer, dripping generously from 15 trees in the woods behind my house. Like Thornton Burgess's Peter Rabit, I run and jump a little on my path between the trees, because it's 45 degrees and feeling like spring. Because buckets, neglected yesterday, brim with clear sweetness today. I thought February was the longest, dreariest month of the year? This year spring touches us early, and I relax my worry that our March vacation will take me out of the country during the most generous maple week.

Basement woodstove stoked to its hottest means windows upstairs can crack open and let some freshness into our closed winter home.

Maple season, my heart flips with love and fills with singing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Library Day

If you have ever read Poppleton by Cynthia Rylant (and if you have any children between 3 and 5, you should read it to them, and if you don't have children, you probably have not and never will read it) you will know that "Poppleton went to the library every Monday. Monday was always Poppleton's library day." He's a pig who spends every Monday at the library reading an adventure story.

Such a life that would be, says this mother of three who spends her library visits keeping books on shelves and prompting to put the toys back in the toy box and helping with puzzles and approving (or not) books taken from shelves to go into the library bag for home. Today the three enthusiastic youngsters went to spend 9AM - 3PM at a friends' house, and the day is mine. Such luxury. I choose the library. As I walk to the door I'm a college student again, those college days of independence, when I went to the library to study, or in a rare hour, to read for pleasure, just me, surrounded by books and other book readers.

I'm reading Lighting Their Fires by Rafe Esquith, which references, in relation to teaching our kids appreciation of time, the play Our Town by Thornton Wilder. I find it on the shelf and begin to read. Interrupted at the end of Act 2 for lunch with My Hero, I check the book out and take it home with me to finish. I end streaming tears and longing to drink up every beautiful minute of this one wild and precious life I have been given.

EMILY:
In a loud voice to the stage manager.
I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have
time to look at one another.
She breaks down sobbing.
The lights dim on the left half of the stage. MRS. WEBB
disappears.

I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never
noticed. Take me back--up the hill--to my grave. But first:
Wait! One more look.
Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners...Mama and
Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking...and Mama's sunflowers. And food
and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths...and sleeping and waking
up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.
She looks toward the stage manager and asks abruptly, through her
tears:

Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?--every, every
minute?

STAGE MANAGER:
No.
Pause.
The saints and poets, maybe--they do some.

It's the life He's called us to. To be saints. To live in this extraordinary world and make the most of this gift of life, and worship Him for it and through it, because it all counts in the end.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Even tough days hold their gifts...

197. Two friends coming over with their children = a house FULL of sitting, toddling, building, biscuit-munching, hiding, running, make-believing, grinning kids

198. Red swing coat on sweet little lady

199. Phone message during tea time informing friend the job is hers

200. Colored paper, scissors, glue, mailing love to family across the miles.

201. Bashful boys at the doctor's office stop playing, cross the room to sit in my lap and whisper their love to me as bold older boy tries to talk to them .

202. Bananas and clementines satisfy baby girl until pancakes are ready.

203. Raspberry oatmeal pancakes with maple syrup

204. Stories about children who know hunger. Humble gratefulness that these ones in my lap always have enough.

205. Inspiration...a funny message popping into my head to make him laugh... left in crayon on shower wall, an early morning message on a day when our paths don't cross until night.

206. Five year old learning to write.

207. Five gallons of clear sap gathered on one February afternoon, enough to make a pint of syrup.

208. Boy ideas: instead of "What can we do, Mom?", they make their own fun with a couple of sleds and carpeted stairs.

209. Baby girl asking permission with large blue eyes, serious round cheeks, and inquiring tone, her spoken words as yet unintelligible.

Monday, February 15, 2010

God is my Hope

"Mom, do you hear Peanut Butter? " Christopher Robin asks me, coming in to use the bathroom as I brush my damp hair and smooth cream on my face in my early morning routine. I do hear Peanut Butter's moaning cry, but I know better than to attend to it until I'm really ready to face him and help him. Ready to start the day. I finish and head to the kids' room.

"Mama, I want you to 'old me," Peanut Butter moans. I sit on his bed and scoop him into my lap and do just that. I revel in his warm stillness. Oldest boy and baby girl are all wiggles, inherited from their mother an inability to sit still very long, at least without something to think about. My middle boy just loves to be held, and always has. His content in my arms is part of who he is. So I sit still and soak in his warmth and run fingers through his hair and thrill to the silkiness of his three year old cheek. His cup fills up, and he decides he'd like to make his bed.

Later he's finished his breakfast and I call him to me again, to soak in some more of him, and he refuses. Cup still full? Or because it's my idea? My Hero roars and runs and scoops him up and he rests long, content in his daddy's arms. Christopher Robin comes to fill mine, long arms and legs and cheeks like soft pillows and wiggles...

I drink in happiness. I marvel that this family God has given...is the best. I don't want anyone else's, only mine. These ones, all of us together, are right. Other families are wonderful to them and this one is wonderful, supremely wonderful, to me.


Now is naptime, and I sit like an orange peel ripped open and missing the fruit inside. Hollow and empty, dry. I type from a marred keyboard, missing the 1 number key.

"Mom, come look at the computer," Christopher Robin's voice warns. "Not now," I mutter as I put lunch on plates. I can't face more trouble right now. Raindrop has cried at me much of the morning and Peanut Butter retaliated my saying no to more Valentine candy before lunch by swiping the card-making debris, papers, scissors, pictures, glue sticks, papers scraps, magazines, onto the floor. I had fairly calmly made him clean up his mess, but his behavior much of the morning seemed to be aimed at getting even with me. I can't imagine anything seriously wrong with our laptop, but my heart alarms a bit when Christpher Robin scolds Peanut Butter for breaking the computer. I come to look, and Christopher Robin informs me that Peanut Butter "bit" the 1 number key off. It does not snap back on. I snap.

He, unintentionally, has found a way to get even, he stumbled on a way to hurt me, to make me rage inside and feel the same frustrated helplessness he feels when I say no more candy before lunch. Our new computer now looks like junk, and I know it doesn't need to matter, but it's so unnecessary, and probably irreparable.

This boy whom I love, deeply, passionately love...how does he wield so much power to frustrate and anger and lay me low?

Anger burns steadily as I sweep up crumbs and paper scraps during naptime quiet. An image enters my mind, a video, clear and real, of 18 year old Peanut Butter leaving home, independent, unfeeling, glad to be finally away from restrictive parents, ready to fly and not look back. Neediest child grows up with least gratefulness and affection. Despair enters my heart, and the feeling of futility. Powerless against inborn selfishness, what can I do? And what is this for? And why must I give and give and give?

I turn to the God of hope with my feelings, and ask Him. And go to bed weary and discouraged.


Today, a new day, questions remain and discouragement persists, but I remember where joy comes from and determine to give thanks in everything.

And at snacktime, as baby girl naps, the God of hope opens my eyes, washes away the despair. Boys open valentine boxes from Grandma and dig in to their candy. Peanut Butter brings me a small package of gummy hearts to open, and after I do, he gives me one with a loving smile. I thank him and kiss him. A few minutes later he comes from behind, taps me on the shoulder, and gives me another candy. I thank him for his generosity, saying that it makes me happy and it makes Jesus happy. That brings Christopher Robin over with a gift of his own. As the boys shower generosity, I see it. The capacity for good. The potential for transformation in each of the boys. Left to themselves in sin and selfishness, chances are good they will lack love and gratitude, but Jesus can transform them. Thoughtfulness can be encouraged, love for others developed to a degree, and ultimately, as they know Jesus better his divine power will give them everything they need for living a godly life. Jesus is their hope just as He is mine. Rather than harden my heart to them in despair as I suffer from their selfishness, my response can be to turn to God in prayer to transform them, as He transforms me, and to give me wisdom to teach them a better way.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"Come back later,"

they greeted me when I opened the door to their bedroom to let them know they could get up.



Friday, February 12, 2010

Another good day in February

185. As we know Jesus better his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. II Peter 1:3 Such as thankfulness to transform a grumpy, self-pitying mother and thereby redeem the day before it even starts. Yesterday was a good day, and the glory belongs to Jesus.

186. Sap buckets are hung, ready to collect maple nectar as days begin to warm.

187. Sweet baby girl's mouth pursed in concentration as she aims a single finger towards my nose, then opens her small hand and presses palm to my lips when I say "nose, mouth..."

188. Five year old boy laughing to himself because of a phrase come to his mind from The Adventures of Sammy Jay, our naptime chapter book.

189. Full night of rest, uninterrupted.

190. Chocolate Swirl Banana Cake

191. Mashed banana with a few sprinkles secretly substituted for ice cream when sick baby girl sees brothers hovered over bowls of her favorite dessert. She licks her bowl clean, too.

192. Oatmeal with blueberries for breakfast.

193. Peanut Butter's blue eyes and earnest expression as he explains his understanding of things.

194. Photos waiting to be put into albums. Albums to be flipped through and browsed and absorbed as we remember these fleeting days.

195. Farm fresh eggs again, delivered right to my door. The hens have resumed their laying at my parents' place, and my kitchen rejoices.

196. Another day of surrendered plans, waiting to see what circumstances bring, focussing only on the things that matter most, with a few projects fitting into the cracks as the opportunities come.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Antidote to self pity after a rough night with sleepless baby girl

175. Warm chai, ever the drink of comfort.

176. Deep purples and turquois of predawn sky.

177. I can slow. No pressing agenda forcing me to rush through the day. I can relax, let go of things, refuse to allow stress or bad attitudes to reign in me.

178. Jesus. In my weakness you are glorified. If you turn the day into good, all the glory, always, belongs to you.

179. Husband long miles away, out of reach of unrealistic expectations, safe from my tendency in these hard days to lean heavily and then layer on most of the blame.

180. Sap buckets hanging in the woods, ready. Just a few. More today? Only if circumstances allow...

181. Christopher Robin can READ! Not just stumble over small words, but pick up a book and expressively read the story. Sometimes I take it for granted, and then it hits me new again. It's a precious gift, this natural ability in my son. I think God smiled the way indulgent fathers do when picking out a special gift for one of their children, when he put that into my firstborn son, knowing how much it would mean to me.

182. Library day.

183. Project taking shape, a handmade something for darling neice who turns one this month.

184. "But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Gal. 5:22-23

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February Evenings

Winter days can be long. Stuck indoors when the cold wind bites soft little cheeks and reddens tender noses. Days made longer when Daddy's days at work get him out of the house before little ones are out of bed, and home again after they're down for the night. No one to interrupt the day with "Daddy's home!!" and a half-hour of romping and growling and laughter and squeals. Evenings can feel daunting, the question, "Mom, what do you want to do with me now?" coming, coming again, challenging. Can I fill the time with creativity, warmth, fun? Energy dwindles, but my eyes quickly scan the list of ideas on the side of the fridge. This is precious time. Three little ones...the simplest things entertain. They really just want time together. Attention, touch, ideas to think about.

Tonight began with a recent favorite: flashlight hide-and-seek. The house goes dark (maybe a night light here or there), the seeker holds flashlight in lap while the hiders find dark corners and shout their readiness. Then, before seeker has a chance to wonder where they are, hider is squealing, "Help me! Help me!" from the hiding spot. The game moves fast when players are 5 and 3 years old.
When the game wore down, I dug out needle and thread and mended baby girl's favorite shoe broken by 5 year old boy's long foot. As I stitched, 5 year old boy gathered library books for a final reading before our trip for more tomorrow morning. First a few rounds of Raindrop's new favorite games, the classic ball with shapes. She doesn't ever seem to tire of it.
I let boys "help" make bread...when I do, it helps me appreciate the next times without their involvement. I had started to take those times for granted.

Other ideas from my list on the fridge of things to do together:

  • make cookies
  • make Thank You cards (paper, pictures cut from magazines, glue sticks, scissors, tape... not exactly a dreaded chore...)
  • finger knitting (make a simple chain with fingers and yarn...hasn't caught on yet, but I'll keep trying)
  • paint (watercolors)
  • read new magazine (Christopher Robin gets Clubhouse Jr., Peanut Butter gets Your Big Backyard, thoughtful gifts from my sister to her nephews)
  • sing songs
  • write a letter (both boys enthusiastically draw pictures so they can put them in envelopes and put stamps on them to send in the mail to people who matter to them)
  • take walk along snowmobile trail (a daytime, not evening, activity, since evenings are dark. Involves this mama pulling three young ones in a sled through the woods...a lovely adventure when the weather is kind and the snow is firm.)
  • do puzzles...this used to be a problem time; boys on stools at the kitchen island, 100 piece puzzles safely out of reach of baby sister's intentional trouble-making, baby sister below or in my arms, loudly discontent to be left out. Last time was better. I pulled out one of her small wooden puzzles and set her in a chair on the other side of the island. I alternated helping each of them with their puzzles, and thereby maintained a relative peace and happiness throughout.

Other ideas? I would welcome them.