to grandmother’s house we go

Having our entire septic system rebuilt has been an experience, with huge equipment tearing up a massive section of our yard. A couple days into limited water usage, as we headed toward no water usage for at least a bit, the kids and I went down to my parents’ house for the better part of a week.

Living close enough to my parents to have them at most every birthday gathering and special day, as well as the quick visit here and there, is just wonderful. The down side, of course, is that a few hours here and there is usually the length of a visit. Settling into their home for day after day of just being was such a special gift. The kids got to move slowly enough to peruse bookshelves and find treasures and make up games and just absorb that sense of being at “grandmother’s house.”

Our unofficial first vacation of the summer:


devotions at breakfast each day


plenty of time to just sit with a babe or two


Nana’s magical garden path, where toddlers get lost in primrose


keeping house


finding a new corner to explore


sleeping in with baby


game after game of wiffle ball


naps on rainy days


somebody snuck my phone during our read-aloud


boys I love


heading out to play in “my” backyard — so special.

life in June.

Oh, June. How we love you.

Even this year’s variety of June, with cold rain that drives us to turn on the furnace just to rid the air of freezing damp — still somehow wonderful.

We closed out our school year on June 2 (well, 3rd; I woke Saturday morning at 6am to find Jameson already at the table, finishing up his last two lessons of math. June is motivating!) I have to say, we all seem to truly love our school days and routines, and my children are, generally, a joy to teach, but by the end we are itching and squirming and ready to just wake up and go. Go play, go read, go sit by the window and stare. Anything.

And so here we are, ending our second real week of summer vacation, and well on our way to a fun, eventful summer. Eventful in the sense of you never know what may happen; one day you’re happily living life, and the next, your backyard is torn up because there’s a septic issue. Time to stock up on paper plates and quarters for the laundromat.

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One thing I am finding about mothering many children, more and more of whom are of the school age variety, is there is a shortage of time. (You can laugh, I realize that’s the most obvious realization a girl ever made.) Consequently, during the course of a school year my linen closets and medicine cabinets and kitchen drawers and freezers deteriorate into some chaotic semblance of their formerly organized selves. For the last few months I have just gritted my teeth, put the band aids away, and closed the door on the rest of the mess, saying to myself, “Someday.” But when? When is the “someday” that no one needs me and I tear the house apart and do some good old fashioned spring cleaning?

I’m not sure. It eludes me.

And so I did a brain dump. That always, always helps me: get it all down on paper. I have a list in the back of my “planner” (a Mead college-ruled notebook, because I am that organized) of all house projects, and another of outdoor/garden projects. This means that on any given day, when a snippet of time presents itself, I don’t have to wonder where to start (which ends up in me doing nothing); I can flip to the back of my notebook and select a project that fits the moment. AND THEN CROSS IT OFF. Is that not the best feeling in the world?

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There are aspects of summer that have always been challenging for me. Namely, the lack of routine and quick spiral into disorder of our hearts and environment. I am slowly learning our family and our particular brand of needs, and maybe, just maybe, getting better at this summertime thing.

June 6th, we began our summer days with this pinned to the wall:

We have a couple of chunks of scripture we’ll memorize and discuss this summer, beginning with Proverbs 3. Taking our time with one passage means great discussion, with time to ponder layers of meaning and application. It also means I’m not in a hurry to cram them full of all my thoughts at once — we can just take it line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.

I’ve selected two books to read aloud (maybe three; we’ll see how far we get), and began with Winnie the Pooh. Because no, we have never read it in its entirety, but this year it is perfect. My boys just love dry, British humor, and we find ourselves laughing all the way through each chapter. And the girls love the stories. Throw in an inordinate amount of rainy indoor days, and there you have it, the perfect start to our morning routine.

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Summer mornings means I feel less hurry in my own morning ritual of coffee, Bible time, and a walk. I’ve been slowly going through Nancy Campbell’s “The Power of Motherhood” in the mornings, and finding it amazingly rich. So, so much to think about. Very highly recommended.

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And pictures. I love summertime pictures.


Playing with cousins;


Beatrice’s graduation from kindergarten, and the aftermath of her little party;


waking up early to play with Beattie’s new toys;


breakfast at the picnic table turned into a morning playtime — my favorite kinds of breakfast!;


out with the old and in with the new;


gardening with Beatrice;


beautiful evenings spent as a family;


and our most current event: learning about how septic systems work. Or don’t work.

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Lastly, listening this week to a series my father preached. It is really, really good. He is easy to listen to, keeps things very simple, and yet communicates principles that are truly life changing. If you’re on your way to work, or getting laundry going, or slipping out for some exercise, give it a listen.

Happy Friday!

springtime

A month of magic: from twiggy trees and yards of last year’s faded grass, gardens piled with wind-blown sticks and muck, there is the magical transformation of spring.

Leaves.
Emerald lawn.
Perennials waking to new life.

Over all, truest blue skies and softest white clouds.

Fox runs back and forth through our field, hunting for a little den of kits somewhere in our woods. Birds of so many varieties wake us before dawn, a dawn that comes earlier and earlier. Deer brazenly meander through field, somehow keenly aware that this is not the season for hunters.

The world awakes, every year.

This is an awakening I am often watching for so eagerly — but this year, it slips in all around me and takes me utterly by surprise. (Wearing wool socks more often than t-shirts may have something to do with that!)

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We turned to May and saw every calendar day of that first week marked PRODUCTION! My four children performed with our homeschool program’s high school musical, and it was the most wonderful experience for each of them. Jameson loved being a part and watching all the backstage workings from an up-close vantage point; Beatrice just loved the camaraderie; Fiona, it would seem, has a great love for this sort of thing and had every line and movement memorized; and William (in a larger role) was just wonderful. He was full of sparkle and life and energy, and worked so hard to do his very, very best all the time, despite how tired he may have been. I was incredibly blessed to watch him come to life up there, with his fellow cast members, in a way I’ve never seen before. The production itself was phenomenal and a testament to how much can be accomplished in a setting where parents and church pour into and value children.

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My dear mother in law also came for a visit, long enough for us to get used to her being here, living life with us! The kids were all so sad when she had to leave. The best moments (for me) were looking into the family room to see her sitting on the couch in conversation with a few of the kids, them happily telling her all about something or other, just so happy to be with her.

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And now, whew, where are we? Growing children, yearning soul, weed-filled gardens, filling forms for next academic year…

For now, today, just a pause.

I know there are so many things to do — needful things, hoped for things. But these last few days have slowed enough to just breathe, and rather than quickly cram with the next page of to-dos, I’m smiling and laughing and getting off that bad habit of a hamster wheel.

april in pictures

This spring is winning the award for Most Money Spent Heating Our House. To welcome May 1st, I turned up the thermostat. But rain or no rain, this month promises to be bursting with fun and activity. Before we launch into all of that, a quick bit of reflection. April was…

…days of routine at home,


(I love Beatrice’s drawings!)

…bringing the boys to their NYSSMA performance evaluation, where they both did superbly,


(I tried to get pictures of the boys getting ready to perform, but too many nerves to stand still and smile.)

…Easter celebrations!,

…a few mild days that found us running to be outdoors,

…food, of course,

…presbytery meetings at church, and William receiving prayer,

…and shuttling my four little thespians back and forth to rehearsals. Each drive finds them more and more and more excited to perform this coming weekend!

That’s it! April is done. A fresh page today (true, with many squares filled in already), that can be given completely to Him. He’s got a book, too, and all my days are written in it. Comfort and purpose.

learning the Word together

One of the most important aspects of our life together here at home is spending time praying together and studying the Bible together. We don’t always hit all the “Big Rocks”, but this is one we try hard to not miss too often. That said, I always do best at consistency when I have a plan! One year we memorized the Ten Commandments and talked about them in depth (loosely based on my Dad’s Ten Pillars class, which everyone should take!), and last year our curriculum included a Bible plan and the kids impressed me by learning quite a few chapters of the Bible!

This year, I had a desire to help the children ponder, think, and apply. I found a list of scriptures that all highlighted the character of God, and then made a plan:

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This was just enough to fill a school year’s worth of devotions, with enough space to add in special Christmas and Easter readings. I bought everyone a blank composition book, got a stack of Bibles, and filled our Circle Time basket. We followed the above structure, which allowed us to incorporate recitation and handwriting into our Bible time (and I do love killing several birds with one stone!) While the boys did copy and meditation work, the girls would work with me a bit extra on memory, and then draw pictures to go along with the verse.

There are several ways to memorize scripture as a group. Sometimes we’ve done lots of rote repetition, learning little chunks at a time. This year, I emphasized listening, and then reading out loud together. I’m amazed, when I add a few hand motions for Fiona, and use the same expressive patterns for the older ones, how quickly they learn this way! Fiona knows some of the verses better than others, and I’m sure not every one has stuck in Beatrice’s long-term memory, but we are hiding the Word in our hearts together and it is so good.

Of course, my favorite day was when the boys would share what they wrote in their journals. Some weeks required a bit of prompting to go deeper than the obvious “God is good and God loves me.” But some weeks I was so blessed by the observations they made, and what the Holy Spirit would speak to them.

The scriptures we’ve covered (and will cover in the next few weeks!) are:

John 3:16
Matthew 6:26
Psalm 103:12
Psalm 103:4-5
Romans 8:32
Psalm 139:1-6 (over a couple of weeks)
Psalm 107:9
Luke 19:10
Isaiah 1:18
Psalm 103:3
Isaiah 53:5
Job 19:25
Psalm 86:15
Isaiah 40:31
Jeremiah 9:23-24
Ephesians 1:7-8
Psalm 103:19

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Along these lines, I bought a 3-ring binder last year, titled it “Circle Time”, and divided into different sections: Songs + Hymns, Scriptures, and Book Reports. This is allowing me to keep track of the songs we’ve committed to memory (I make copies of lyrics, which we use until we’ve memorized a song or hymn), the scriptures we’ve learned, and the books we’ve read out loud together “for fun.”

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What plans or ideas have you implemented in your Bible time? Do you have a devotional book, or a loose plan?

March, in photos

I’m so glad for pictures! These months of busy but unspectacular days would be lost if it weren’t for pictures. (Lost to my memory, anyway. Not lost in their impact!)


Waiting for Daddy


Fiona’s fabulous drawings


<3


A shopping trip where I let the girls pick out birthday gifts for a friend — oh, the joy!


Sunrises


She is loving this new skill!


Learning to braid Fiona’s hair


NZ gear from the grands


Another year older = time to start some good habits.


Luther together for movie night


Cherry pie birthday traditions


My new vacuum comes completely apart for cleaning. AWESOME.


Blessing my two girls with fun new skirts from Mama’s sewing machine.


Birthday outing!


BFFs


Bubbles and babies.


Sometimes our friend Julie spoils us.


Illuminating our scriptures.

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Reading!


She loves her baby dolls.


And she loves her pretend friends.


March walks.


I just love these kids!


Outings with Cecily


Learning to bake independently


Sunshine and a blondie.


In denial about winter


What up.


The four amigos.


So sweet.

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Jameson performing for Grandparent’s Day — much of our months has been music for various things!

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Beatrice!

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William!