Friday, August 29, 2014

Lessons from Farmer Boy

I have had the great pleasure of reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder to my young son.  My older son is usually working on something else, but the story is so good, he is often drawn in too.  Here are some things that have come to mind from this wonderful book.

We are producers. - God made us to make things.  We are co-creators.  The lie of advertising is that we are made to consume, but actually we are made to produce.  With the gift of good land and strong bodies, we can make our own food, clothes and furniture.  Let us not lose sight of this truth.

Work is good.- We have been made to think that work is the drudgery we get through to get to weekends or vacations.  And yes, we all need sabbath and rest in our lives, but the ability to work and provide for our families is a blessing.  Just ask someone who is disabled or unemployed.

Mothers as teachers.- Almanzo's mom is just pretty awesome.  She is a baker, a seamstress, a weaver, a canner, a hatmaker, and a shrewd bargainer with peddlers. She does it all, but she isnt a helicopter parent.  She is a teacher and we see the daughters have learned many of her skills (ice cream making!!) and are very competent.  For all the technology and growth of knowledge we have now, there is much we have lost.

Respect goes both ways-  Almanzo's father is respected, even feared (in a good way).  But the beautiful thing about the father- son relationship is how his father really respects Almanzo and teaches him to be a man by talking to him with respect.  He gives him life lessons, but he also puts him in positions of responsibility.  And Almanzo learns that he really is a strong, smart boy.

Boys have so much to offer-  In our society, Almanzo would probably get diagnosed with something and medicated. He itches to be outside and to be with the horses, be with the men working, be out and busy.  Contrary to current perceptions, this is a GOOD thing.  Boys have so much energy that can be used for productive, useful things.  They want to be helpful, they want to be a contributing part of the family.  Lets unplug them from meaningless video games and give them real tasks that take real strength and skill.

So much more I could say.  This book is a delight.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

reality and grace

I have read blogs in the past that are like a Martha Stewart show.  Lovely photos, lovely words, lovely homes, lovely food. Pretty Pretty Pretty.  And there is a place for those blogs. 

But I had to stop reading them.

Part of me liked them, but part of me walked away feeling frustrated and sad.  I'm not proud of it, but I would definitely line up with the results of this study. 

BUT there are some blogs out there that have blessed me immeasurably.  There are women who have shone light on my path through their writings.  In years where I really struggled with motherhood, they inspired and encouraged me.  Their blogs were and are REAL.  They dont air all the dirty laundry of their families.  No one wants that.  But they share struggles selectively and their attempts to persevere.  Its not a whine fest either.  Lots of joy, lots of gratitude.

Those blogs are the ones I keep reading.

I want this blog to be real. Just 5 minutes of sharing, reflecting, and maybe sometimes venting.

In the spirit of honesty, I have to say that it was a hard morning today.  I added on some more subjects to our slow start of school.  I showed my oldest the checklist he would have this year. It was overwhelming and there were some tears.  Growing up means more responsibility and if we can all be honest here,  sometimes that aint fun.  (Hence the piles of laundry waiting to be folded here)

But we also learned about grace today.  Mama is here to talk with you about these responsibilities, to help you learn to shoulder them and walk by your side.  We will tackle the hard things together and not give up.  We live in reality and we live in grace. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A peaceful beginning

Our little Classical Conversations group has grown this year.  i added up 88 people there yesterday!  Wowzers.  Considering that 18 of those are in the nursery, lets hope the little people dont rise up against us old folks. 

This is my third year of directing and I can say it was the least stressed beginning I have had.  I think people who have been around for a while have hit their groove and it is easier to welcome the many many new people.  Kids know what to expect, Mamas know what to expect and it all goes pretty well.

That to say, we had some wailers in the nursery, some very shy kids making it through presentations and some boys with enough wiggles for a can of worms.  But it is typical first day stuff.

So I sit here with a very thankful heart.  For the friends God has brought to me to walk on this road of homeschooling.  For a beautiful program that gives us guidelines and freedom all at once.  For healing from the years of homeschooling in isolation without the encouragement of other crazy mamas.

Im grateful.   Here's to a great year.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

i can type this while i am on hold

i am on hold with our internet company.  I am having to "say" what i need and the robot is supposed to understand me.  The problem is the robot doesn't understand me because what I need is not one of the 5 words the robot can understand.  So I just keep talking and eventually a human will answer.

This is one of those times when I really wonder if technology has made us smarter.  Used to be I could call one person and they had the skills to answer questions about a wide variety of subjects related to their field.  Now it takes a LONG time to even to get a human.  And that human doesn't know much about anything besides what is on their computer screen.  So if I have a question about a bill and customer service I get transferred.  More waiting, more writing time. 

Recently I had a problem with a bricks and mortar store.  I went online to find customer service and talked with someone from a number I got there.  I found out that this large, nationwide company has no connection between their bricks and mortar stores and their online version.  One hand does not know what the other is doing.

Just finished with my call.  At the end, they asked if I wanted an upgrade. I said maybe if they get it working at all, I will see what the quality is and see if I want an upgrade.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

love of danger

My baby entered a phase this week that all my kids have gone through.  When she gets bored with eating something, I can coax a few more bites from her if I let her eat it off a fork.  Maybe its the texture, maybe its just something new.  But I bet there is something in her little mind that is like "oooh, its sharp! I pokes! I want it!" 

Its the same attraction we all have to fire, the love we have for fireworks, swimming, etc.   We know there is a little bit of danger involved and for some reason we are drawn to it.

I saw this TED talk recently:  5 dangerous things you should let your kids do. 
The speaker actually has a book with 50 dangerous things, which I would be interested in seeing.  Now, I dont let my kids go crazy.  I have a no football, no boxing rule.  I just worked too hard on those brains to see them get bruised up. But I do let my kids build things, burn things and try out stuff.  My husband lets them do even more.

What I loved about his talk was that in doing the "dangerous" things, kids learn about limits.  They learn how close to fire feels good and how close will hurt you.  They learn how to hold a drill so the screw goes in and doesn't fly around ( a lesson I am still learning) They learn where their limits are and what they can do.  They learn they are strong and smart.  All good stuff. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

calm before the storm

It is quiet.  The neighborhood kids have gone back to school.  The boys are at grandmas today.  We are starting to start our school year.  I dont like to jump in all at once.  (Funny, Im that way with the swimming pool too)  A few years ago we started this graduated process of starting school and it is much gentler on all our lives.  Here is how it looks this year:

All summer: reading and math
this week:  reading, math, composer study
next week: reading, math, CC memory work, US notebooks, read alouds, IEW
after labor day:  all of it! 

It helps us tweak the schedule before the onslaught of sports and tutoring sessions dominate.  It works for us.  For now, at least. :)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

a change of view

Sometimes I need to get out.  Get out of the house with never ending laundry.  Get away from the screen of a computer that sucks me in.  Get free from the many shoulds and musts that I carry in my mind.  Get a new perspective when I feel frustrated and saddened by others. 

In other words, take a hike. 

This weekend we did the worlds most painless camping trip.  One night only, at a friends farm just 10 minutes from home.  Hot dogs, marshmallows.  Then mom goes home with baby and they both sleep in real beds.  In the morning I brought breakfast and we took a hike in the woods.  Nothing special, no caves, natural bridges or historical sights.

Just me and my boys and dirt, rocks, sticks and trees.  Beautiful. 

It didn't solve the relationship problems, clean my house, or bring back Robin Williams.  But somehow a hike always helps me shed a little of the weight of this world. 

I cant really explain how.  My circumstances haven't changed, just the way I view them.   I think seeing all of creation helps me know I am held by the Creator.  All these things that burden me are not greater than Him.  It is all in his hands.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

the tomatoes survive

I posted a while ago about my "30 minute" gardening, which is based on about the max stretch of time I get out in the garden in one day.  

The problem is, I dont get that stretch of time everyday.  And the weeds grow everyday.

If you were to look at my garden today you would see a big mess of weeds.  If you dont know where to look, you might think it is ALL weeds.  But then you would see a little flash of red and realize that there are some tomatoes out there.  They have made it despite my lack of discipline. 

We have  counterful that are ready to be made into sauce or salsa or soup.  They have that lovely round shape and the tender but not mushy skin.  For us tomato lovers, it is perfection.

And that is how my life is.  Lots of weeds.  Lots of weakness, failings, disappointments in myself and others, shortfalls, hubris, good intentions that fall short.

But sometimes there is a glimmer of red, a bit of sweetness and beauty.  There is fruit being born, life continuing.  Grace being poured out on my weak self.  Morsels for the blind beggar. 

It doesn't (and never has) depended on me.  God uses me, with all my inabilities and brokenness, and makes good things.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

looking at old pictures

We are making a desperate attempt to be good parents and go through old pictures on the computer.  It has been YEARS, like several of them, since we have gotten photos printed on actual paper.

As we look at pictures from long ago, it is good and sad-  that is why we have the word bittersweet.  Those round baby faces were so real at that moment, but now they are different.  Still sweet, but bony and angular.  The things that brought them joy are the same as now, just in different ways.  We dont roll the ball, we swing a bat at it now.  We dont scribble on paper, we draw intricate scenes of movies. We dont wrestle. . . oh wait, we still wrestle.

I see things I miss, things I regret. But I see so much more that I treasure, that I look back on with deep gratitude.  Thankful for the grace that held us in so many moments.  The gift of family.

Friday, August 8, 2014

i won the humility prize. . .

. . . but they took away the medal because I wore it.  :)

True Story-  The other day I was thinking about a friend who had said a negative comment about someone else and I thought, "Wow, she really needs to learn humility.  I would never say that." 

Yeah, between the publican and the pharisee, I think we all know which one I sound more like.

This week had plans, lovely plans.  I am SO GOOD at plans (that lovely humility I do so well). 

But then there was life, REAL LIFE.   Friends wrestling with big issues that just need to talk.  Children that need attention.  A phone call to a doctors office that turns into four phone calls to insurance companies.  Any semblance of productivity faded away. 

But this is good.  This is all what a proud peacock like me needs.  I need to be reminded now and then that all I want to happen may not be all He has for me.  Faithfulness (which is connected to a person- God) is my purpose rather than Success (which is connected to tasks). 

As with the appearance of light, darkness retreats; so at the fragrance of humility, all anger and bitterness vanishes.  (St. John Climacus)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

some days it just doesnt happen

Sometimes you need to talk

sometimes you need to listen

sometimes the toilet breaks

sometimes it takes two trips to the hardware store to fix it

sometimes you need to work

sometimes the internet is off

no cleaning, no working

some days are like that.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

the kitchen, my nemesis

This will be quick, I hear the baby stirring.

Its a case of if you give a mouse a cookie.

If you cut up a watermelon, even if you are careful and have a cookie sheet to catch the mess, you will get drips on the floor.

And those drips will stick to your shoes and spread and you will not see the juice, but you will hear it and feel it as you stick stick stick while you walk. 

You will mop the floor, finding lots of dried bits of food to be scraped off. 

You will see the wall behind the baby's chair needs washing. 

And the door.

And the table legs.

And before you know it, you and Magic eraser have spent a lot of time together getting drips and spatters off places you dont usually see.  But the table leg looks like a different color now and the magic eraser is a dingy gray.  So its all good.

And then you turn and see that this is just one half of the kitchen.  The other half is the one you actually cook in and the thought of all the spatters and dust on surfaces on, in, above and around those cabinets makes your head spin.  The magic eraser runs away screaming.

That will have to wait for another day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

7 rooms, 7 days, 7 hours

The other day I was feeling that familiar sense of despair at the mess in my house.  I knew this week was a more open schedule than other weeks, but I still was so overwhelmed and didnt know where to start cleaning.

Then I started counting the rooms in our house.  Its not a big house, theres actually only 7 rooms.  2 baths, 3 bedrooms, living room, kitchen.  The mudroom and garage are another matter entirely:) 

I thought, here I am with a week, which has 7 days, and 7 rooms to work on.  If I spent one hour a day (which is one baby naptime) on each room, it would make a real dent in this mess. 

So, I am on day 3 of this experiment (more or less).  Here is how it has gone so far:

Saturday:  this was the day the idea came to me, so I didnt really have a plan yet.  I think i put away laundry, which should count for something.

Sunday:  cleaned our bathroom which would have been condemned if the health dept had seen it.  it was SO bad.  I still need to tackle the closet in our bathroom, but that exceeded my 1 hour of time.

Monday:  This was a busy day with other things, organizing at our CC facility, making pickles, babysitting, having a friend over.  I didnt really get much cleaning done. 

Tuesday:  This is called the most productive day of the week for a reason.  I had no out of the house plans, so I got our bedroom looking a lot better (mostly by putting away my craft stuff) and finally got rid of some things that have sat around for years that can now go to the thrift shop. I also worked on homeschooling stuff, which kind of counts for the living room since that is where the baskets I cleaned out are housed.

Whats left? 
Boys room- I have organization plans for in there, but need hubbys help with a shelf installation.
Boys bathroom- they actually keep theirs cleaner than we do ours, but the linen closet needs some help.
Babys room- this doesnt have too much, but there is another season change coming and I am pretty sure her 12 mo dresses are too short even for a baby so the ceremonial switching out of clothes must be done.
Kitchen- this is the room that could just get cleaned forever.  the task I am avoiding the most which probably means it is the most urgent is cleaning out the fridge.  You know its bad when an unknown spill is making the crisper drawer stick to the bottom of the fridge.  ick. 

I will keep you posted on my progress.  4 days left. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

pain, beauty and joy in the deepest parts of us

I listened to Radio Lab today and it was all about memory.  They found people who had lost their memories to amnesia could still remember pain and music. There was even a conductor who didnt talk but could remember how to conduct when he heard a familiar piece.

Somewhere, deep in us is the capacity to feel joy and pain even if we cant remember where we are or who are loved ones are.  What does that say about us, about how we are made?

I am not a philosopher, but it seems that when all the things we have worked to make ourselves into are taken away, all the thoughts of our achievements and accomplishments disappear,  we are left with something more.  Deep down we are drawn to the good and recoil from the bad.  From an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense to avoid something that could cause harm.  But why music?  Why do we still sing when we cant remember anything else?

Maybe because we came from heaven and are meant for heaven. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

a brief history of love songs over 20 years of loving (and 17 of marriage!)

We dont really have "our song"  but these are a few I love that come close.  Warning: Some of these videos contain almost nudity, scenes from Twilight, etc.  I am not condoning the videos, just the songs.  Put them on while you do something else on the computer. :)

** update** my sweet husband played a song this morning that he wrote and recorded for the night he proposed.  We are both in a musical mood this anniversary.  I love you honey, forever and ever. 

This was sung at our wedding:

This has been a song I have in my head every anniversary
I heard this one last year and was brought to tears by the lyrics and his voice
I heard this song in Lowes (a place that always reminds me of my husband) and knew it would go on the list.  This is the voice I wish I had, but dont. :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

What I want to be. . .

I want to have a regular cleaning schedule, but I am usually just doing the thing that looks the worst.
I want to get up early and walk, read scripture and pray, but I am always squeaking out the few minutes of sleep that I can while hubby gets breakfast ready.
I want to paint furniture in cool trendy colors, but i just keep wiping the grime off and saying someday.
I want to bake great nutritious muffins and breads, but we eat a lot of cereal.
I want to grow lots of vegetables and preserve them, but I am usually just whacking down weeds.
I want my kids to look nicely dressed, but most days their pants are too short and their shirts are stained.

There is what I want, and there is real life.  I live in a real world where babies want to be held, laundry never stops and the phone rings at the most inconvenient times.  Where date nights are few even though we have grandparents nearby.  We are always running just ahead of the chaos that is pounding at the door.  We have some routines that provide a barrier, but still we are in a season where our time is not our own.

but that is what it means to be a family, and thats really all I want.