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


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.