Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It doesn't take much to be their hero...

It's a gorgeous spring day here. The grass is so green that it looks Photoshopped. :)

We got a some school done that was on my agenda, and some that wasn't. (I congratulated myself when I didn't rush them to finish up a puzzle of the U.S. that I'd forgotten I even had.) "Look, Seth, what is this state? Where does it go?"

When the wiggles were making me start to grit my teeth, I decided to take a break and head to Durant nature park. They ran pell mell through the woods like little puppies to get to the playground. This is the first year that Ben hasn't needed to be carried all the way, and it's the first time that Seth has read the trail signs without help.

You want to be a hero to your boys? Call to them as they play pirates in the woods, and tell them that they're getting "old Mcdonalds" for lunch. Better yet, have their baby brother tell them. Much cuter. And then watch them run for the van.

We hit not one, but two parks today. We ate at Annie Wilkerson and listened to the birds sing. Seth found the end of the fairy trail and told me about all the fairies he'd met and their homes. Evan picked up the flowers of a sweet gum tree and asked the naturalist there to identify it for him. We got some memorable, hands on nature study!

I texted David while we were there. "Thanks for working so hard to make it possible for me to be with our boys. We're thriving."

We are. :)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tenebrae and other misc. musings on Easter...

 Our first year doing an Easter tomb garden… Just a little grass seed and potting soil, et voila.

The roll dough is made and in pans in the fridge. The homemade ice cream is in the freezer, chilling, and the boys are upstairs noisily washing the sticky stuff off their bodies from licking the bowl. I'll make the green bean casserole tonight, and I'll put some jellybeans in a few plastic eggs and make up little Easter baskets. The Honey Baked Ham lies in state on the second shelf of the fridge. ;) Tomorrow we'll dress in whatever "church clothes" look most decent and head out to Easter service. (I'm finding out that I'm not the only one at our church that doesn't buy new clothes and do up big, elaborate baskets for Easter. And I'm grateful for that. Those things steal my joy and appropriate attention from Jesus, and I'm glad I'm not the only one.)

So this Easter, we decided to try and find a tenebrae service. My sister-in-law, Terri, really enjoyed the one that her church had when they lived in Minnesota, so I thought it was worth a shot. The problem is that evangelicals don't seem to do this kind of service routinely, so it was tough to find one. I asked around, but there was nothing close. Then I overheard a mom talking about her church at the playground,  and it was St. Marks Methodist near us. I asked if they had a Good Friday tenebrae service, and they did! Community Bible Study met there when Seth was a baby, so I knew a little bit about the church.

The service was exactly what I was hoping for. The choir sang "I Believe" while they stripped the chancel. This meant covering things with black cloths, taking off altar cloths, etc. It was moving to me, especially when someone took the vestments from around the minister's neck. It hit me that without Christ, we don't have the church, we don't have the people of the church, the ministers, the parishioners, etc. The other pieces didn't mean as much to me because those aren't a typical part our worship, but this felt a little like somebody coming up to our pastor and taking his Bible and microphone and telling him to leave because he had nothing to say anymore.

Most of the service was simply reading through the parts of Christ's passion from the book of John, and as the pastors read, they would pause and put out one of the many candles in front of them. At the end, the sanctuary was dark and quiet. One pastor took the tall candle out of its stand, walked away, and then there was a loud sound to symbolize the earthquake when Christ died. He brought the candle back, and it was left lit, alone, a tiny light in the middle of the dark room. We all followed the ministers out, and then he read the last passage, locked the sanctuary, prayed and then went out silently.

Evangelical Christianity has a lot of wonderful things about it, but I think there may have been an over reaction against symbolism and liturgy during my childhood. I know that symbolism can be empty, but that doesn't meant that it always is. Sometimes it is beautiful and meaningful, and the Bible bears that out in many places. I also wonder if, through concern that many mainline/Catholic churches focused too much on Christ's sacrifice to the exclusion of His victory, evangelical churches threw that baby out a bit with the bathwater as well. It seems like we almost never dwell on His sacrifice.

All that to say, I'm discovering something new to me (though tenebrae has been around since the 5th century) that has enhanced our understanding of Easter this year, and I'm thankful for it. A tenebrae service may become an Easter tradition for our family.

"He is risen!" And all reply, "He is risen, indeed!" :) 

 Easter mantel… found the printable on Pinterest :) 

Sealed sanctuary until Easter morning...

Friday, April 11, 2014

spring, my friends...

A little throwback to 2012. I was holding baby Ben on a picnic table when this was taken.

I just threw a wrinkled tablecloth on a crumb covered table. I pulled out 2 plates of the little fine china that I own, and I found some stubby white candles and pushed them into the crystal candle holders. While the boys tested to figure out which matchbox cars can fly the farthest, I cut up chicken and broccoli and strawberries. And then I threw them out the door with their grandparents… :) 

David and I haven't seen much of each other this week. It's been one of those nutty weeks that just flies by in a daze, and we've been a bit like ships passing in the night. We sent off some friends to a new home in D.C., and their loss will be felt. My parents came and played and took boys to a baseball game. I yelled during school and vowed that the schedule must become more relaxed to accommodate springtime wiggles. 

The pollen is so thick on the porch that my original plan to eat out there tonight had to be scrapped, but I made a cute Evite invitation for him to dinner at our place before that. I may forget to give him his birthday cards from me and the boys, but I can pull a baby rabbit out of my hat in this season of our life from time to time if it's only a baby one. :) 

After this long, long winter, spring feels like even more of a blessing. We learned about the myth of Ceres and her daughter today in Story of the World. The boys can tell the story, pomegranate seeds, six months underground, six months above, rejoicing and spring when she comes back, etc. But I couldn't help but think how much better God's story of spring is. The world was trapped in winter, but then God's Son died, renewed the earth, and breathed the breath of real spring onto the whole world. It is no coincidence that we celebrate the Resurrection when new life springs forth from the earth, and I'm so glad He planned it that way.

When I see the dogwoods bloom, that's what I think about. :) 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

She said it better...

Ok, so I found this post today from Amongst Lovely Things, and she is way better at expressing my recent angst than I am. Go there!

I enjoy reading this blog. She's classically inclined like me, but she doesn't seem overly stressed out about it. It's a Catholic blog, and I think I find myself gravitating toward some of those lately. I think it's because the Catholics have lots of kids and seem to survive, so that's encouraging. :)

I also like to look at her pictures of her adorable twin boys. Because, of course, if we ever have another child, it would be twin boys. Hah!

Monday, March 24, 2014

contentment killers...

We've gotten into a good homeschooling family routine. Gymnastics and Cub Scouts on Mondays, CBS on Thursdays, Homeschool Co-op on Fridays (with the occasional park playdate afterward that I aspire to go to again one of these days). I'm getting some regular time to listen to other co-op homeschool moms share what's working and not working for them, and I like hearing a lot of different perspectives, especially from women who are a little more seasoned than I am. We have a great Life Class at church that we spend time with, and we volunteer in nursery. Going to the park at the last minute is a staple of life that a bunch of active boys and their mom can't live without.

I feel like we've found the right balance for us in this season. It's good. I was feeling deficient in homeschooler interactions, and co-op rectified that a good bit.


Even when I feel like all is well and we're where we need to be for now, it's so easy to second guess.

I like to read blogs, and I subscribe to many in Bloglovin'. But I've noticed that most of the ones that I subscribe to do not involve a lot of posts about complicated craft projects or home renovations. Nobody is making ravioli from scratch while simultaneously painting all their furniture and tandem nursing twins. If they start trending in this direction, I usually fire them from my reader.

I tend toward bloggers that tell me about their introverted tendencies, their thoughts on balancing family life, how they're growing through relationships, etc. I also like to read bloggers who recommend good books for children and adults. I'm a sucker for a good children's book blog.

I can often take the energetic bloggers in stride. That's their thing! They love it, and it makes them feel more alive to tandem nurse while putting up drywall. To each his own! Vive la difference! I find it a little stressful to watch, but I think it's good that there are energetic movers and shakers in this world who enjoy that kind of thing.

It's a little harder to feel at ease, though, when it's other homeschoolers planning and doing lots of cool, educational things. I see all the fun things that everyone is doing on Facebook or on a blog, and I think, "maybe I should be doing that." Or, "hmmm, that looks like fun. It could go well with those books we've been reading on explorers," etc., etc. It's tempting to think I should shake things up and sign up for even more.

But then I remember that a big part of why I'm homeschooling is because I actually want to be in my home.

When we're out and about, that is a good thing. We need to experience class environments and spend time with other homeschoolers and exercise little bodies on the balance beam. But if we're out much more than we are, I start to lose my center. I feel it beginning to happen. My focus gets fuzzier. I rush too much. I don't take the time to look at my boys in their eyes and drop everything to come and see the latest bug they've found.

If I'm going to err, let it be on the side of being fully present in my home. I'm going to need to carefully choose our outside commitments because I'm sure that's most important right now.

Maybe I need to unsubscribe from a few more blogs. :)

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


It's midwinter, and staying inside has encouraged some filing and chores that I have been putting off. For instance, I have been really slack this year about putting things in the Wonder Book. I usually stick papers in this handy little clipboard I have that opens and stores papers and pens, but it was getting a tad bit full.

Finally getting stuff filed made me realize that I wanted to make a book list for the year. And what a book list it will be! I've got categories like "History" and "Picture Book Biographies" and "Books on CD." Writing down even a fraction of what we read makes me realize that the heart of school for us truly is  the books we read. I get title ideas from everywhere. Simplehomeschool gave out a great list of new picture book biographies, and our library had most of them. We've read about Jefferson building the a Library of Congress, Einstein, Paul Erdos, Clara Barton. Books are such a wonderful way to introduce the idea that there are a million different things that you can do and think about and discover.

Seth was randomly listing our blessings the other night, and at the top of the list were "toys so the kids don't get bored" and "books so the grown ups don't get bored." We laughed at that, but it's true. He sees his parents with their noses buried in books when we can snatch a free minute or two. That's us. That's our family, and he's gotten the idea.

We just finished up "Farmer Boy" (reading aloud at lunch slowed down significantly for awhile), and I've just started reading "Owls in the Family." They're loving this one so much that the enthusiasm was really high when I asked them if they wanted me to get some books on owls from the library. I want to read "The Light Princess" by McDonald before things get more relaxed here in May.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Much to hope from a rose...

"There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion. It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary to our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness that gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers."- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Thursday, February 06, 2014

seeing the glory of God….

Combine Evan, a bag of rubber bands, and about 30 minutes and you get a work of art that will keep you from opening your desk drawers more than half an inch…

So, it's been a little bit of an emotional roller coaster around here lately. I've recently been diagnosed with chronic bladder pain, otherwise known as "interstitial cystitis." Yeah, not exactly an easy thing to talk about in polite company. I've had this on and off since Seth was 6 months old, but its been rare and generally hasn't lasted more than a week or so, so I was hoping it would leave and never come back, and I didn't bother to figure out what I had (once again, hoping I had nothing.) This latest round has been going on 3 months now. It ranges from making me want to cry to low grade discomfort, so I finally went to see a urologist. (Again. I went to see one 6 years ago who did a CAT scan and took pictures of my bladder, and told me he couldn't find anything wrong. Umm, thanks.) 

The next step is pelvic floor physical therapy. Doesn't that sound fun? :)

Anyhoo, all this to say that I've been a little grumpy with God. I've been grumpy on a few different levels. I've been doubting some things that I think He's been saying to me about where our life is headed, and I've been doubting that He's going to take care of me and keep me functioning so I can serve my kids and my husband well. 

But the good news is that God doesn't usually leave me doubting him without doing His best to get my attention and encourage me. This week's CBS lesson was on John 11, the raising of Lazarus. As I did Seth's lesson with him last night, I noticed a thing or two about Martha. 

See, Martha, she has a problem with being a yo-yo like me. One minute she's saying, "Yes, Lord, I know you've got my situation under control. I know you're powerful. I believe it. I trust you." And the next minute she's saying, "Ok, where were you when I really needed you? Where were you when I was just sure that you'd show up and make everything right?" Um, this sounds awfully familiar. 

So Martha tells Jesus, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now, I know that God will give you whatever you ask." See the smidgen of faith here? She's trying. She's heard that Jesus has raised others from the dead before. Maybe they were just mostly dead like the cynics have been claiming. She's going to try and push the doubts about the whole "mostly dead" thing to the back of her mind. She's trying to trust.

And then 5 minutes later, when Jesus asks to open the tomb, what's her first thought? "Are you sure? He's been in there 4 days, and he probably smells bad." Seeing a lot of faith here? Are these the words of somebody who is expecting the miracle that she claimed she has faith for earlier? Apparently Jesus doesn't think so either, because he says this:

"Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

Our teaching director pointed this out in lecture today, and I wanted to cry right there at the table. Because I am struggling, just like Martha, to believe that I will see the glory of God. And God is challenging me, just like He did her. It's time to step up and believe…. even though I can't see how my pain is going to be used for His glory. Even though it feels laughable to think that He'd come through on other promises we think He's made to our family. 

I wrote the verse in bold up there on a chalkboard, and its in my living room now. I suspect that I'm going to need to see it often. He had patience with Martha, and I hope He'll have patience with me. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

All the social studies extras….

I've been meaning to write about this for awhile, but I just haven't, so I'm going to try and rectify that now. :) Things are going swimmingly with homeschooling this year…. soooo much less stressful than last year. I attribute this to the fact that I'm not requesting about 20 books a week and obsessing over planning the next unit study. We haven't rowed a single book from FIAR this year, and I don't regret that. We may row a few this spring, but I'm going to do it in a far more low key way if we do.

I thought I'd talk about what's working in our Morning Time portion of homeschool. When we start the morning, we do social studies and devotions first. I have a Baptist hymnal that I've had for ages, and at the beginning of the year, I made a list of hymns that I wanted to learn. I put a paperclip on that page, and I just open, and we sing. (By the way, paperclips and post it notes are the way that I mark all of my pages. I find if I don't use them, I get frustrated. So simple, yet so essential.)

We'll do a devotional reading and pray briefly. I have all kinds of devotionals that we've used, from the Jesus Storybook Bible to The Big Picture Story Bible, etc. Right now, we're using a book called "Character Trails" by Marilyn Boyer that we're all enjoying.

I have a giant laminated map of the world on the wall, and I also have a laminated circle with a boat on it from FIAR last year. I've started using my DK First Atlas for simple geography this year. Each day, I'll find the next continent in the book, and I'll have Seth or Evan move the boat to it. We talk briefly about different aspects of the continent. I point out all the different kinds of animals pictured in the atlas. The next day, there is usually a little more content about the continent that I'll read, and then I'll have them move the boat to a feature of the land. For instance, I have them move the boat to the rain forests in S. America. We learned how to use a compass rose last year, so Seth refers to that sometimes when he's looking for something.

I gave up on trying to find the perfect picture study materials, and I fell back on the Usborne Art Sticker book that I'd started last year. We put a few picture stickers in the frame, and I read the short snippets of text around them about the little paintings. This has been short and sweet and surprisingly interesting to them.

For composer study, I'm just getting picture books about the composers from our local library. Anything by Mike Venezia is usually age appropriate. I'll also make a playlist on Spotify. I've been enjoying the Classical Kids playlists for different composers. I'll play them while Seth and Evan are having table time, and I'll just briefly mention that we're listening to Mozart or Bach today.

Sometimes I'll read a silly poem by Shel Silverstein or something from A Child's Garden of Verses. We have memorized a couple of poems this year, and I've also gone over the Bible memory that we did last year to make sure they have that down. I need to add in more Bible memory this year.

Most days, we read a portion of Story of the World, and I ask the questions in the manual. (I would have Seth narrate, but it's pretty challenging because so many of the names and concepts are unfamiliar, so we narrate only for the story sections in Writing With Ease.) Most days, we also read a library book about the body system we're studying or the animal that we're studying. This week, we're reading lots of different books about the eye and sight. Last week, we read about dolphins, watched a short Youtube video on them, and answered questions about their characteristics. That takes care of history and science.

I feel like the boys are getting a well rounded education, and its not killing me. :) I can see being able to go through the summer this year doing this a lot of days without difficulty. Last year, the thought of doing school all summer made me want to put a fork through my eye, so we quit formal studies in May and started back in early September. I'm so glad I don't feel that way this year. :)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

minutia on Tuesday...

- On my 6th day of doing Barre3. I'm mostly doing 10 minute workouts, though I threw in a 30 minute workout on Sunday. I took a day off on Saturday. I'm hoping that doing this will be more efficient and effective than the once-a-week Jazzercise class I was doing. So far, it feels that way. I'm slightly sore all over most of the time. My sock and rice hot pad has gotten lots of use already. :) Guilt powers me through if I start trying to make excuses why I can't do a 10 minute workout during nap time. Yay, guilt! :)

- A tree service sent out someone to give me a quote this morning. I got sticker shock. The rotten limbs and limbs too close to the house may be coming down, but I think the huge pine will have to stay where it is for now. $1200 to remove one tree!

- The presence of the tree guy got me thinking about how uninspired I am sometimes to want to put a lot of time and effort into keeping up this house. Though I love many, many things about living in a city- close proximity to friends and parks, etc…. I grew up on 20 acres of beautiful country. (You've seen the pictures, people.) I miss all the green space, and frankly, I miss privacy. I miss not worrying about whether or not the neighbor next door is fixing up her house to sell, and if so, who is she going to sell to?

Ok, just one example. And this is in winter even. 

What do you do when you learned growing up that "home" is not just wherever your family is? For me, home feels like a physical place, even though I know that that's not rational or even desirable. I have had nightmares that my parents sold the farm and have woken up with tears running down my cheeks. "Home" means (in my subconscious) "lots of woods and trees and a custom built home that fits your family's needs perfectly. Oh, yeah, and a 2-car garage and no close neighbors and a full basement and a utility barn for the tractor." Not that we would need the tractor or anything, even though David has learned how to drive one. :)

Anyway, I don't always feel the tension of this, but I do today. I've changed a lot since I left Oak Ridge, but some definitions in my heart don't change easily. Being suburban feels like a real stretch today.

Maybe part of it is the worry that I'm going to know less and less how to do a suburban life the older my boys get. My brother and I spent a lot of time outdoors. We did not belong to the local pool. Vance spent hours on gardening. It's probably a big part of why he's a horticulturist today. I spent hours at my horse barn, and they were hours well spent in learning responsibility and getting great exercise. I rode my horses through the back field and around my uncle's lake. We had so much space in which to be busy.

My boys are going to be a different kind of busy, and its going to involve less nature and probably more bike riding. It's going to be a more social kind of busy. They'll have more classes, probably, and more service projects.

But I wonder if they will have less rest and beauty in their lives because they're missing out on running through fields and woods anytime they want.

One thing is for sure… when Daddy calls to tell me that they're mowing hay out back the next day, I'm dropping everything, and we're going. :)