Thursday, July 31, 2014

holding with open hands

A friend told me yesterday that she is going to move away.  I knew this was coming, her husbands job was just temporary, but still I felt that familiar ache.

I grew up in a town with lots of coming and going.  People came for a season in their lives and then left.  My best friends were the ones who stayed.  It takes time to build friendships, for roots to go deep.

As an adult, I lived in a situation where we were hosting many groups that came for a few weeks or a few months.  We laughed, we got to know each other and then it was time to say goodbye again.  I often has wistful feelings of wanting more time with them, but I knew it wasn't forever. 

The most painful goodbyes were the friends we wept with, we watched get married and have babies.  We spent long evenings with wine and conversations and we celebrated birthdays together.  They held my babies and I gave relationship advice.  When they left us or we left them, it hurt so deeply.

So now I am back in my hometown that still has a revolving door of people.  I try to love deeply as I can while people are here, but I have to admit that part of me holds back.  Part of me is testing the waters to see if they really will stay before I commit.  Because leaving and being left hurts. 

God, help me to love with a full heart. Help me to hold friends with open hands. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

at the end of the day

one child sleeps
two boys talk
a cough
two hummingbirds play tag outside the window
the kitchen is clean (enough)
a load in the washer is done
diapers are dry outside (dont forget to bring them in!)
I sit, I rest
a rumble in my stomach tells me cereal time is coming
I wait for the thump of a car door
the squeak of the front door
that tells me
my love is home

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

planning homeschooling, continued

I dont have much more to say on how I plan, but I have a few things that I should have mentioned:

Strengths, Weaknesses and time investment-  The number one thing I love about homeschooling is the gift of time.  More time to play, more time to talk, more time to work on things we love.   But our time is limited too.  There is always more I want to do than we have time for.  And if I book us solid, I am missing out on that all important "down time" where kids create things, discuss things, and just dig in the dirt. So each year I look at what our kids strengths and weaknesses are, my husband is a great sounding board for this.  He sees things I dont.  And besides the basics of the 3 Rs, I design the activities we do around what our kids do well and what they need more work on.  For instance, my oldest really gets grammar.  Really.  He can diagram just about anything. So, besides the class he has each week at Classical Conversations, we don't do English grammar at home.  He gets it and there are other things we can do like learning Spanish that reinforce grammar but are a whole new area he can grow in.  So strengths we just touch on, but we dont go in depth.  Weaknesses are where we have to be disciplined, because its the area we all want to avoid.  So everyday we do some math, even in the summer.  Every day we practice reading, even in the summer.  We need to practice, so we do the time.  Small chunks, but everyday.

Art isnt optional- For a long time, I left art for the extra time.   I thought we needed to work hard on the "academics" and then art was just for fun.  It isnt.  Seeing, understanding and producing beauty integral to our education.  So now I schedule it for every Friday (and Thursdays too, if Dad can teach it) I dont have any great curriculum for this.  Pinterest gives me lots of ideas, but honestly the art activity my boys were raving about and still ask to do again was when we looked at still lifes in books and then I had them search the house for objects to put in a still life.  Then they drew them. So simple, but they thought the finding objects and arranging them was awesome and then drawing them was icing on the cake. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

simple homeschool planning

I once tried a strict homeschooling schedule for our family.  It lasted a day, maybe.  It was too stressful for all of us to be chained to a clock and took away our attention from the task at hand.  I know it works for some, but not for us.

I have gone to the other extreme too, just having general goals for the day, but no clear road map for getting there.  For me that has meant way too much time in our pajamas and breakfast dishes that seem to stay on the table all day.  At the end of the week it is hard to see what was accomplished. 

I have found a middle ground in the past couple years that works for us.  It keeps things simple and focuses our time and attention on the things that really matter.  It does take discipline for me to get the day started and get the kids to finish their morning chores, but then the machine starts going by itself and we accomplish a lot over the course of the year.

Here are the parts of my planning:

Booklist-  This is the heart of it all. Quality books, no twaddle make up our reading.  I dont own all the books I would like to read, but we have a good library that helps.  I do budget a little each year to get a home library built up.  This includes books we read together and independent reading.  These books are mostly historical fiction and literature.  We also read daily from a history spine like Story of the World or Mystery of History.

Checklists-  For each child, I make a checklist of what they do.  Some things are the same everyday, some things change with the day of the week.  But this is mostly a repeating routine, so they know "Math" means 30 minutes of math work.  It doesnt take a lot of explanation once we have the rhythm established

Notebook-  Last year I instituted a notebook (3 ring binder) for their Classical Conversations memory work.  That consisted of 24 numbered tabs for the memory work of each week.  I printed off lots of worksheets and things to fill out.  This year I am super simplifying that and will have graph paper for math each week, tracing paper for geography each week, lined paper for latin and grammar,  and plain paper for drawing/writing history, science etc.   We are also doing a separate notebook for the 50 states.  

5 minutes is up, so I may continue this tomorrow. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

how she sees herself

I saw a report today that overweight kids generally dont know that they are overweight.  As they broke down the statistics, one thing stood out to me.  Not all the overweight kids were oblivious.  The girls knew. 

From a young age, these girls had seen ads and movies that showed thin women.  Not healthy sized women, but starve yourself thin women.  They had played with dolls that looked more like aliens than women.   And they had entered into the trap of comparison, always coming up short.

I see the way my baby girl sees herself now.  She chews on her toes.  In the bath, she explores her belly button.  And frequently when she has sticky hands, she runs her hands in her silky fluffy hair.  She knows she is fearfully and wonderfully made.  She rejoices in her body. 

As she grows I will have to teach her the tricks.  How to find clothes that are both modest and flattering.  How to see that the before pictures always have no make up, poor lighting and ratty hair. How to know when it is just enough make-up to bring out your best features, but not to look like a plastic doll.

But before all that, I want to teach her what she already knows right now as a baby.  Her body is wonderful, miraculous and precious.  She is a masterpiece.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

maybe shorter than 5 minutes today

Because I am standing up and I need to go to the bathroom.

But take time to read this today.  If you are like me you will be smothering your laughter because a baby is sleeping and tears will roll. 

It is funny that with my third kid, getting up in the night has not been as stressful for me.  She doesn't sleep any better than the other two did at this age, but maybe I am just able to let go and hold her and soak it up.  Or maybe I am to tired to stress about it anymore.

Monday, July 21, 2014

just in time. . .

A couple weeks ago I performed the ritual thousands of moms are doing right now. 

I made up a family schedule for this fall.

When your primary job is to keep you home running, this is a big event.  There are many needs to consider, many activities with fixed times and days, and as a homeschool mom, there are chunks of time we need to be home and things we hope to fit into that time.   Its not an easy task.

But I wrote that schedule and just let it sit.  I went away for a while, I thought about my goals, my desires and my children's ages and stages. 

I am so glad I did.  That little time away to breathe, to consider, to reflect makes all the difference.  Then, providentially, I saw this website.  Go there and look.

Yes, yes.  This is what my heart was telling me in that down time.  I needed to remember that teaching from a state of anxiety or panic or worry isn't why I am doing this.  Rest, space, down time.  That is why we are homeschooling.  This little blip called childhood is a small percentage of our lives and I want my children to roll around in it, to soak in the space where creativity is born.  To eat up all the good stuff I can give them.

So i will go back to that schedule soon and toss out the things I have on there because some voice inside told me I "should".   I will look at what is the essence of our education.  What matters most.  That is what I will keep.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

things I am picky about- travel cups

I am not a princess.  I do not have to have things just a certain way.  I sit here writing while i eat crackers from a box and hummus from the container, just so I dont have to wash dishes.  I am VERY low maintenance.

But, there are a few things out there I am picky about.  i may do a series of posts on these things.  I may not. 

When i was pregnant, i had various health problems and the answer to every single one was- DRINK MORE WATER.   Literally 100 ounces a day.  I mean literally in the literal sense- 100 OUNCES A DAY.  Ok, sorry for shouting.

So I got picky about what containers I used for my water.  I love how water tastes in glasses, but it does make a mess and for a mama on the go, i need something that can take a beating.  I tried the insulated cups with straws and found they leaked, cracked and spilled when knocked over.  Metal sports water bottles were good for most things, but sometimes hard to get ice in, and i like my water cold. 

This week I may have found the perfect water cup.  If you have an Aldi store, get there fast.  They have a deal with two insulated cups that look like mason jars.  They come with straws (which are taped to the underside of the packaging, so dont be a dummy like me and forget to untape one and throw it in the recycling :(  ) but they also have a sippy part that has a flap that covers it.  It is great because you unscrew it and there is a wide mouth for putting in ice.  You can use the straw or the sippy.  AND you can put hot or cold in it!!! I love sweet tea, and i usually just make it by the glass, so these are perfect for that.   I think they run 2 cups for $8 or something.

A little summertime pleasure for the picky water drinker.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


I have lived long enough to have a variety of friendships.  The kind that are full of laughter.  The kind that go to deep, difficult subjects easily.  The kind you can call on for whatever is needed and you are there for them in need too.

And I have had friendships change.  Sometimes it is a blossoming from and acquaintance to a true friendship.  From that "we should really get together sometime" to actually finding the time to spend time together, even if it is just to run after kids at the park.  Sometimes a friend becomes a coworker, and sometimes the other way around.

But, like most people, I have had friendships that have grown distant.  Sometimes physically, when one of us has moved away and it is just harder to communicate.  And at times someone has backed off and given less time and energy to the relationship.  Sometimes that was me backing off, needing space.  Sometimes it was the other person.

I know a friendship can change for all the right reasons, but I also know it can be painful.  

A strange 5 minute post today, but there it is.

Friday, July 11, 2014


I have a friend who's teenage son flies planes.  Yes, FLIES PLANES!!!  Just thinking of a teenager behind the wheel is stress inducing, but a plane!!!

What I admire about this mom is her utter confidence in him. She has taught him how to learn and trusted that as he worked hard at aviation classes, he would have the tools he needs to fly.  And he does.

My oldest is going to take a big step in a few days.  Its not flying a plane, but another way of learning independence.  It feels like a big deal, but really we have been working towards this for years.  First with picking up his toys, then with putting his plate in the dishwasher.  Then feeding pets, then cleaning the bathroom.  He is able to take this step and succeed.

Am I?  Can I learn from my friend and be confident in him?  Be confident in me? Can I rest knowing that this child was never truly mine, but a gift given to me for a time so that I could give him to the world? 

Fly, my sweet one, fly. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

create a little every day

eat breakfast
nurse baby
get dressed
start laundry
clean up kitchen
check that kids did chores, violin, reading
baby down for nap
listen to kid read
garden (if its not too hot)
baby wakes
nurse baby
check math of older kid
make a phone call
make lunch
eat lunch
clean up from lunch
kids to rest time
make tea
check email
write on blog
computer work
make important phone calls that cant be interrupted
kids up
run errands (maybe)
clean house (maybe)
play with baby
make dinner
eat dinner
clean up dinner
take kid to karate, tennis, whatever
work in garden (if not too hot)
get baby ready for bed
hubby home
baby to bed
boys to bed
fold laundry
hubby and me time
knit a little, sew a little, create something
read a little

This is a pretty accurate view of a normal day here.  This is definitely a summer schedule, one that doesnt have much schooling going on in it.  The creating part is just a little 30 minutes or 1 hr at night, when hubby and I can talk and my brain is too tired for much else.  I dont finish projects very fast.  I dont do anything very complicated.  But for me, that little bit of handwork feeds me and fuels me for all the other things I do, which is another kind of creating.  Creating a home. :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

30 minute gardening- in a 5 minute post

I told my husband I could write a book called 30 minute gardening.   Because I love to garden, but my life now allows only about 30 minute chunks of time to work on any one thing.  (Or, for this blog, 5 minutes)

Background:  I am a gardener.  Its inherited from both grandparents.  Something about my pioneer ancestors makes it impossible for me to not dig in the dirt.  Even when we were living in our first apartment, I had pots and pots of plants, even in the bathroom!  Our first townhouse I had a 3x 3 plot by our grill where I crammed in tomatoes and basil. 

Caveat: I am not an amazing gardener.  My beds are not a pinterest post waiting to happen, but there is something in me that just cant NOT plant things.  Sometimes things go well, sometimes they flop. And I am now out of my perfectionism stage and am just thankful for anything that grows. So if you want a Martha Stewart garden, this advice is not for you.  If you have a million other things going on in life, but you want to grow some of your own food, read on.

Hidden Cache:  Essential for gardening- dont share your gloves, shoes or trowel.   Have a good pair of gloves (leather or plastic dipped kind) a good trowel and gardening shoes hidden away so  your children or husband cannot get them.  If your kids are like mine, they will borrow them for "just a minute" and then your gloves will be left out in the rain, your trowel will be buried in the sandbox and you will waste the little time you have hunting them down when you could be out in the garden.

Call in reinforcements:  When there is a big job, like turning over soil or pulling a mass of weeds, get help from those people you feed and clothe.  Boys love whacking at things with hoes, and husbands can give an hour to do the jobs that would take you and your wimpy arms twice as long.  You can do the planning, the planting, the picking, but for back breaking tasks, there is strength in numbers.

Dont waste your time on difficult plants:  I did squash last year.  Actually we did 3 kinds of squash and pumpkins.  We got some veggies, but eventually squash beetles got them all.  Guess what?  This year I didn't plant ANY squash.  I may never plant it again.  The way to get rid of squash beetles is to lay down on the ground and look for their holes in the stem and then slit open the stem to get them out.  Did you see how many steps that was?  and you have to do it EVERY DAY.   On top of that, my kids dont really like squash and they take up a lot of room in the garden.  So this year I planted lots of beans.  Beans are easy.  Beans are cheap.  Beans can freeze just great (You can can them too, but I dont like canned veggies)  Beans dont have many predators. 

OK, my 5 minutes are up.  If it wasnt so hot, I would go out to the garden now :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Gathering my Thoughts

Elizabeth Foss has been one of my favorite blog authors since I started reading blogs.  Her voice has helped me in my growing into my vocation of motherhood.  In honor of her honesty and faith, I am doing a "Gathering My Thoughts"  post today.

:: outside my window
It is summer, but not the sticky oppressive summer.  The breezy warm, stay on the porch and drink sweet tea kind of summer.  After a long winter, it is feels like riches.

:: listening to
Silence.  Big kids are at grandmas.  Baby is asleep.  This is my productive time.  All 45 minutes of it.

:: clothing myself in
Capris and a sleeveless top.  My oldest has been growing through lots of clothes lately and gets sentimental when I pronounce something too small.  When he saw my capri pants today he told me I was growing out of them.  :) 

:: talking with my children about these books
Little Women-  My oldest and I are reading it together this summer.  He asked me the other day "Beth is going to get better, right?"  I channeled my inner Marmee and said, "You'll see."  My middle one looked ahead and saw in the pictures that someone gets married and decided it must be Beth, so he pronounced that it would all work out.  We may have some tears shed before this is over
Ramona books-  My favorite childrens book series of all time.  I see why I loved these so dearly as a child.  She really communicates the inner world of a child so clearly.  The plot lines are so very mundane, but the rich characterization and internal dialogue make you feel like the world has shifted.  Which, of course, it has for an 8 year old.  Very satisfying reading.

:: thinking and thinking
About Saints Peter and Paul.  This podcast got me thinking about how very different these two men were and yet how God used each one mightily and even brought them together in unity.  It gives me hope for the church.  God can work in very diverse people that don't always even like each other. There is hope for me.

Ok, my 5 minutes are up.  I need go capitalize on what remains of baby rest time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

teaching me everyday

God gave me very different children.  I guess we can all say that.  The gifts of one are the struggles of another and vice versa.  They are each beautiful, radiant with joy which helps me think I am doing something right. . . so far. 

Having children with different needs, different strengths, different challenges pushes me to think creatively and react with empathy.  Sometimes I get frustrated, wonder how I am repeating something we have discussed dozens of times.  On the bad days, I am just breathing deep and moving on to the next thing.  On good days, I remember how I still knit so poorly after years of doing it.  I think about how some things just dont interest me at all and I have to listen patiently when someone else gushes about those topics. 

I am learning still. And my children are my teachers.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

get to bed

this is the time of night when its all we can do to get our kids in bed and all of us still speak nicely to each other.  when it comes to cleaning their room and getting dressed, they are like the dog who bolts whenever it sees a squirrel.  suddenly everything becomes really interesting and important.  the catalog that arrived three days ago, the car driving down the street, plans for tomorrow are all distractions that pull them away from the task at hand.  getting dressed, brushing their teeth, etc.

We started a tradition several years ago that centers us after the hectic, crazy getting to bed frenzy.  We sit together and we each tell about the best part of our day.  At first, we talked about the best and worst parts of our day, but we found that the worst part quickly became a griping session.  So now we end the day with gratitude.  There is always something to be thankful for.  Sometimes after a hard day at the office for Dad, the best part is coming home.  Sometimes after a hard day for mom, the best part is Dad coming home. 

Then we pray.  We sing before the icon corner and remember what is true and real and beautiful. We lay aside the frustrations and burdens of the day.  The hymn we often sing is the oldest hymn outside of the Bible.  I think of generations of mothers, weary from the day of work and child raising, remembering in their deep down souls the glory of God and turning their grumbling hearts to praising hearts.

For meet it is at all times to worship Thee with voices of praise. O Son of God and Giver of Life, therefore all the world doth glorify Thee.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

all of us

In a few weeks, my husband and I will have been together for half our lives.
When we were first married, I remember dreaming of this point.  I loved the idea of living more of our lives as a couple than we ever did apart. And here we are.  We are growing old together.

It is hard to write about my husband, because I lose perspective that we are truly two different people.  We talk so much about so many issues, as mundane as the grocery list and as profound as trinitarian theology (and that is all in one day!)  Our relationship is so good, so strong, I really do take for granted that marriage is work.  A holy, blessed work. 

Today I listened to a talk by Met. Kallistos Ware about the Orthodox marriage ceremony.  It was beautiful picture of mutual submission, celebration and exaltation. 

I dont usually get inspiration from current pop love songs, but I caught one the other day that just brought tears to my eyes.  Buried in the lyrics was a nugget of truth of what marriage truly is.

"I give you all of me and you give me all of you. "

Friday, July 4, 2014

im a small town girl

I spent a good chunk of my life in a city, not a huge city, but a European city where the population is concentrated together more than most American cities.  I got really used to public transportation, beggars, and small little neighborhood shops.

I can confirm that I am definitely not a city girl.

I grew up in a suburb, a neighborhood built for people to sleep and eat in and then go to work 15 or 20 minutes away.  It is a beautiful neighborhood, with tall trees and manicured lawns.  I have so many good memories there and it warms my heart to see my kids playing in the same places I did. 

But my heart isn't really in the suburbs.

I am a small town girl.  I love going down the street and naming who I know (or knew) in each house.  I love that my son took horseback lessons from the mayor and if my water pressure is low, my 3rd grade teachers wife is who I call. 

In a world where we are glued to our cell phones, connect with others virtually, and have such struggles with loneliness, there is a deep joy in the web of love that cradles me in this small town. 

Today we are celebrate this nation, and I also celebrate my hometown.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Im back. . .

This is my stone to throw to the world. . .

I left this blog because I had so many pressing things, i didnt know what to do and this seemed optional.

Over a year later, the list isnt shorter, but the discussion at Melissa's blog has reminded me of all the good fruit I have received from blogs over the years. 

So I am going to try again.  5 minutes, thats all.  Whatever I have on my mind is what will come out.  Well, with some filters. :)

It is a cool day today and i am going to spend as much time outside weeding as I can.  The garden is doing so great this year, but the weeds are growing too.

Notes to myself:
Vacationing in June is way better for the gardener's timeframe.  Everything is in the ground by then but there is not anything needing to be picked yet (except strawberries).

Mulch next year as you are planting.  Digging out weeds in July and laying down newspaper is much harder.  and less effective.

Planning for next year in my head.  We are studying US history.  Thankful that we have so many books already.  Thankful for a good library.  I am figuring out what are the most important books to read.  This is the last year my oldest will be doing the same history as us, so I want to make it a fun, memorable year.

More tomorrow. . .