new things

It’s Friday evening. Inside, there’s the peace of sleeping children; outside, a chorus of crickets. (I love that so much!) Tonight, I’m tired. My feet ache, my eyes burn, tired. But that’s okay. You’re supposed to be tired on Friday night. Especially when it marks the end of a packed-full-of-new-starts week:

On Monday, Beatrice started walking. She’d been taking a couple of steps here and there for several weeks — and then Monday morning, she just got a fire in her eyes and walked across the room. We’ve been highly entertained by her adorable, tipsy walking all week long. Do I have any videos of this adorable walk? Of course not! She drops to her hands and knees the minute I pull out my phone. It really is cute. And shocking — I’m still caught off guard when I look up and she’s walking down the hall. My baby is growing up.

On Tuesday, we implemented a new fall routine. I’d worked on it a few weeks ago, trying so hard to sort out priorities for this year and make room for it all. I finally got it all squeezed into 5 24-hour slots. Phew. Then Ryan casually said, “As long as you still have plenty of time for Bible reading,” and I read somewhere that one should consider “starting your day slowly.” Ugh. I knew I hadn’t quite gotten the priorities accurately sorted. So I went back to the drawing board, asking the Lord to help me let go of the unnecessary “good” things — and I feel like He really did. Granted, it’s only been a week, but still — I’m shocked by how much “slow” time there has been each morning. Time to smile, to wake up a bit slowly with a book and an afghan, to eat a real breakfast, to slip in a few minutes outdoors before gathering at the table. Starting our days with that sort of pace just seems to help us.

I am walking. Thirty minutes, early in the morning, I have been slipping out the door for some exercise. It’s working. There are some seasons when fitting in any form of exercise has seemed like an insurmountable impossibility. But right now, with these three kids at these ages, it’s working. I’m really happy.

Wednesday was our first day of school. Books have been arriving via UPS for weeks, but I kept them tucked away in my closet. On Tuesday night, I tied them up with ribbons and slipped a card for each boy into their stack. It was like Christmas. They couldn’t wait to start! Jameson is in 1st grade, and is eager to learn to read. William is happy to be included at the table with all sorts of pre-K activities. Along with reading, math, history, and science, Jameson is starting piano lessons. He is over the moon excited about that! He slips away to the piano all through the day, happily practicing his two-black-key songs. It’s pretty cute!

This isn’t exactly new this week, but it’s still relatively new: Ryan’s got a beard. He’s very worried I’ll get him mixed up with George Clooney, but so far, I’ve been able to keep them straight. I think he looks very handsome.

The best new start of the week, by far, was the one that happened every morning — or even more often, depending on how regularly I needed to stop and start over. How thankful I am for grace that never gets old, for mercy that makes all things new.

making plans, following his lead

Halfway through get-ready-for-school week:

Crayons, pencils, construction paper, glue.

Books that teach reading, books that teach math, books that teach piano, books that tell stories, books to just learn.

Chore charts revamped, priorities sorted, schedules made.

A list of projects that may or may not be realistic in the remaining days.

Doing my best. That’s what this all represents: me taking my responsibility as homemaker, nutritionist, school teacher, character developer, and job trainer seriously. I do my best to sort out pie-in-the-sky idealism — this isn’t about creating the quintessential homeschool, whole foods, wholesome kids setting: it’s about honoring God to the best of my abilities.

I sit on my stoop Monday morning, coffee in hand, looking out over the glistening dew on our fields, and I ponder this. I remind my soul: this is for the Lord. He wants us to grow in work ethic, in attitude, in ability, in wonder, in body, and all of this is our eager response to that desire. All of my plans, my schedules, my charts — simply an effort to honor and grow. So then, I remind my soul, of course He can change my plans, interrupt our days. If this is all really for Him — if, indeed, this is about more than just controlling every moment of our lives and seeing it run the way I have planned — then He is free to lead our lives. All of the things I want to teach and the character I want to impart through these schedules and activities can only truly be brought about by the Holy Spirit.

He is the ultimate School Master. I must remind myself of this. Every day.

May my heart be oriented towards Jesus, not toward my methods.

a little bit of everything

Beatrice, out on Kevin and Liz’s boat

July 17th is a big deal this year: Beatrice is eleven months old today, and next month, we start counting by years. We are all so in love with this happy, spunky, silly girl. The feeling is mutual, of course. She loves her brothers and adores her daddy. The funny thing about being the mom is that love is simply assumed. She crawls after the boys and works so hard to get a laugh from Ryan, but me? She just knows I’m here. Being a mama is such a privilege.

Watching this afternoon’s storm come in

It’s raining.* This is also a big deal. Our grass is so dry that walking on it hurts. Worse, crops are dying of thirst. Needless to say, the sound of rain as I woke up thrilled me. I do not begin to have the emotional stamina and resiliency needed for farming, but the closer I get to my local farms through greater dependency on them for food, the more I get to share in those ups and downs. Hats off to them.

Pretty breakfasts are one of my favorite things

I got to read through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle again, since one of the moms groups at church decided upon that book for a fun summer read. Second time through, I caught little things I missed the first time. One thing Kingsolver pointed out was that while Good Eating is full of positives in many cultures (think Provence, Tuscany…), Good Eating in the States is a food culture of negatives: you can’t have dessert. Drink skim milk. Low sodium cold cuts for you. Freezer meal while your family eats KFC. And largely, I think that’s true. If my friends and I have a conversation about healthy eating, what gets talked about? What we can’t eat. I realized that part of what I’ve so enjoyed about creating a home for my family has been defining a good and positive food culture. Instead of depriving ourselves of yumminess and calling it healthy, we’re eating delicious food that celebrates taste and health. Guess what? God wants us to be healthy, and He didn’t bother creating a Crystal Light plant in the Garden of Eden — so maybe there are actually yummy ways to be healthy. Right?

Of course, that idea of “good” being a concept riddled with negativity made me think about so many other things. How often does our meditation on a “good and holy” God turn into thoughts of what isn’t holy instead of what is? After mulling this over for weeks, and thinking about how I want to live a life of “I get to!” in front of my kids, I read C. S. Lewis’ words on the subject. He, naturally, says it much better than I ever could:

If you asked twenty good men to-day what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. [more…]

Pirates, sleeping in our very own yard!

Today I dropped off my IHIP — required by the state of NY for home schooled children. All spring and summer, thoughts about next year’s school has occupied a place on the back burner of my mind. Now, heading into summer’s end, it’s time to move thinking into planning. Not that first grade is terribly complicated or taxing — but still, there are priorities to sort and Big Rocks to put in first, because how quickly our jars fill with the pebbles of life.

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to teach Jameson at home. The further along this road called Family that I find myself, the more I realize how much there is to reevaluate, and how much lives outside the box. Another brief side note Kingsolver makes in her book is the observation of the school year: children originally had the summer off because their families needed their help during planting and harvest. Yes. School doesn’t need to rule our lives; it should fit into and enhance our lives. That made me stop and ask: How do our children fit into this family? And how does school fit into that? We have the incredibly daunting responsibility of shaping and equipping children to become young men and women of ethic, honor, and function. I’m so very thankful to know that God has called us and God has anointed us in this endeavor.

*I wrote this post this morning, and then the rain returned in force this afternoon. Hopefully the farmers were blessed, and the people in Potsdam certainly had a fair share of excitement!