Saturday, December 31, 2011

Johnny Fever and Dill Pickle Chips


Breaks are for a bit of indulgence and taking part in the extraordinary. There are things I enjoy, but could never allow to be a regular part of my life because of their unhealthiness or lack of priority. They aren't "wrong" or irresponsible, but some are simply a treat for now and again. So, when they present themselves, I graciously accept the opportunity to ENJOY.

Things I did on Christmas break that I don't normally do:

-let kids sleep in (more quiet time)
-cleaned, sorted and rearranged stuff in the house
-listened to those daytime lady shows about fashion, makeup and exercise while I clean...they're funny and I like how they sound.
-went for spontaneous walks in the woods
-ate leftovers for meals and chips instead of popcorn
-visited friends in the middle of the day
-trips to town in the morning, when I'm not tired and rushed
-sat and stared at the tree lights with music and coffee
-made a display of gifts under the tree (but people wreck it...to use their stuff)
-let our big stinky dog in the house more, to be with us.
-watched episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati in the middle of the afternoon.
-painted in the afternoon
-made a gingerbread nativity scene with the youngest kids

Notice, there is no mention of hockey nor afternoon naps. I guess the rinks are closed for the holidays and I haven't worked hard enough to require extra sleep. I can live with that. One more party to go, then the regular routine is reinstated. I like the regular, but a week or two of tossing the schedule and the "regular" is very good for the soul.

Besides the usual determination to keep fit and be rid of bad habits, I really don't have any New Year's goals or changes to implement...I like my life how it is. Whatever 2012 brings, whether triumph or disaster, I will attempt to "treat these two imposters just the same". My God goes before me, after me, and with me, making good of everything that happens.

May you and I have a very blessed and God honoring New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sleep in Heavenly Peace



It's 3:30 am. My eyes are faking sleep while my mind thinks it is time to get up. I guess my brain cannot see the huge red numbers on my bedside clock, reminding me of how tired I will be this afternoon. Change positions...bathroom break...a little more prayer...change positions...forget it...I'm getting up.

Thank goodness for books, internet, coffee and pretty tree lights in the dark. All quiet company for me in my involuntary earliness. I guess it's the season. The shopping lists and anticipation of events. I go over "important" things I might forget to buy or do, without even realizing I'm taking inventory. We forgeters do that. Fear of mistakes and blunders haunt me in the night. I'll dream of forgetting a homework assignment...but I'm not in school, or forgetting to take vital medication...but I'm not on any, forgetting my baby at the mall...but my babies are grown. Finally, forgetting to make sure I am fully dressed in a public place...but for those who know me...that's just funny. That one is a recurring nightmare of great humor once I realize it was just a dream.

So, what does it all mean Mr.Freud? Simply that I'm afraid of forgetting things and the consequences thereof. It does not have roots in my childhood, nor is it a manifestation of a former life as an elephant (they never forget). I just have this thing about being irresponsible. I'm sure it has something to do with the bad image it portrays, but also with not being able to let go and let God cover my blunders with His blanket of grace. If I make a mistake and someone is affected, then I am blamed! Oh my! I cannot be blamed! I cannot have a tarnished reputation, that would just make me...human. Fear of making mistakes, great or small, is completely irrational and pointless. Accepting and expecting personal blunders is a very healthy way of thinking. Not to "go on sinning so that God's grace may abound", but resting comfortably in the shadow of His protection.

What a relief it must have been on that first Christmas day. The protection and salvation of this fallen world had made itself known. With humility, patience and never ending sacrifice, Jesus started picking up our pieces. He kindly took the hand of the world and guided it through the mess it so naturally makes. Even when we were stubborn and self assured, He continues to shine the light for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear...all the way to the cross.

He did this so that we can rest. Rest from all the striving for perfection and acceptance. We can be free from fear of mistakes and consequences if we are willing to live in faith and obedience to Him. I am His, but I still lie awake at night sometimes, fretting about my performance in this life. He came to free me from that too. His kingdom has already come and I am in it. Right here in my little house, I have His fullness available to me.

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven."

I may not be able to fall asleep at my own command, but I can always rest...and that is what my body and soul needs. Sleep will finally offer itself, probably at about noon today, when lunch needs to be made, or when I'm driving to town with a van full of kids. Christmas is largely about being given the opportunity to rest in Christ. May we not miss the point and let ourselves stress and lose sleep over the celebration.

Take all of your medication, do a wardrobe check and count your children...then relax :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

The "Smell" of Christmas



There are some things about Christmas that have to be a certain way, and others that are negotiable. Jesus has to be the center, there must be cranberry pudding, daily festive music must be played and the tree must be real. My third son made mention to me the other day that there are certain "smells" that he loves and one of them is the smell of Christmas. He was referring to the tree. Not only the fresh, outdoorsy scent that real trees offer, but their unique shape gives authenticity and an earthy simplicity to the theme of the season. I am not an artificial tree snob, I can appreciate those too, I'm just stuck on the real thing. Another one of those things that claim "we always did it that way". A nurtured code imbedded in my psyche.

Part of the draw is the fetching of the tree as well. Every year we and some close friends venture out into the forest (my favorite place to be) and spy out our yearly centerpiece. The gals use their decorative expertise to make the choice, and the guys are drawn to the power tool that cuts it. Since we are only rationed one tree per family, there is need of other things to cut. They are quite pleased when we choose a tree buried deep in a thicket because that means that there will be brush to get through...something else to cut. Why PUSH the brush to the side when you have a power tool at your disposal?

After the trees have been carried home, the hot drinks are poured and everyone warmed. It's a great thing. I could stop there with the "fun" descriptions because next comes the decorating. I am not a tree decorator. If I could hire someone to do this job, I would. Fortunately, kids love it and therefore do it after the painful task of untangling and bulb changing of the lights is done. We have kids, so it's acceptable to have tree that looks like kids decorated it. I love a tree that is filled entire with white lights, but the kids like the colored ones...so colored it is. I love our kid trees, but I really appreciate being in the presence of the artful trees of women who have "grown up" kids. My mom is finally enjoying a "grown up" tree after years of tolerating our masterpieces. I LOVE her trees. They are skinny, glittery, classy and perfect. Someday I will have one of those grown-up trees, but for now, I'll let the kids enjoy their personalized tree and share their awe as they stare at it's beauty.

I love the unique shapes rather than the "perfect" cone trees:



Even if it looks like silly string was used to decorate it:



Skinny trees are "in" too...especially for those of us who don't have a lot of space to work with:



This Chubby Santa tree looks great...or maybe it's the room I love??



I just can't get into colored trees. This one looks like Miss Piggy got a hold of it:



This is awful. It does NOT look like a snow covered tree to me:



I even like the peaceful and simple twig trees. A modern/urban twist??



Lovely, elegant and close to perfection:


How could I not love a tradition that brings the outdoors IN?? Those fresh, beautiful, uniquely designed pieces of nature are always welcome in my living room...grown-up trees and kid-trees alike.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holly Dolly and Hooch


Reticular Activating System (RAS). This is one tidbit of knowledge that has never left my mind from Biology classes. No reason, just got stuck there in my depleting memory bank. It is the part of the brain that is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake transitions. I rarely have any trouble getting to sleep. Except on December 24th...when I have sugar plums, gift unveiling and culinary anticipation dancing in my curly head. I'm not sure I can blame my RAS for this one. Even if I am up to the wee hours, packing gift stockings, (sorry...if you are reading this and still a believer in the plump, red suited man...I let the reindeer out of the bag) I still take awhile to doze off.

It's a little better now than when I was a wee one. I have an emotionally stable, calm as a cucumber, "doesn't get too excited about much else than a Passion Flakie" grown up sleeping beside me. Way back when, I had 2 giggling, blonde headed bundles of excitement laying with me, trying to accept the necessity of slumber that precedes that magical day. One of whom, I truly think never ever got to sleep on that night.

The whole Christmas season was magical in our house. Bill Gaither Christmas music on the "Hi-Fi", our plastic and TOUCHABLE nativity set, the lighted tree set perfectly beside the brick fireplace, Grammy's starched snowflakes hanging in the window and always the scent of something amazing baking in Mom's blessed oven. Scotch cakes, nuts and bolts, Borden's Squares and Cranberry Pudding are the stars of the show...and HOOCH! Hooch is Mom's, non-alcoholic, amazing Christmas drink...it's purple, sweet/sour and just plain lovely. Secret recipe...sorry. My Mom's sweet smile, faint giggles and contented demeanor lit the room up more than any of the lights she strung. Perfectly complimenting her meek and mild presence was my energetic, party seeking, compulsive hugging dad. We waited anxiously, daily, for several different Fords to pull into our driveway just before supper. They were home...both literally and figuratively.

The evenings leading up the the special day were spent watching those yearly Christmas specials on TV, pretending to hand out pre-wrapped gifts from under the tree to church kids, watching Empty Stocking Fund choirs and painting wooden ornaments. We weren't overly involved in extra curricular activities and lived in the country, far from malls and parks, so much time was spent at home until we were older...which didn't bother me one bit. It was the most wonderful place on Earth to be.

Christmas eve was marked by lobster rolls, our special guest Nanny Hanson, candle-light church service and the opening of one present. Then the three gigglers went to bed...not to sleep...just to bed. When we were young, we were showered with the most unique, love labored gifts. My mom is extremely creative and gifted. One year, we awoke to 3 hand made, life-sized dolls sitting on the sofa. They were made to look just like each of the us, from eye and hair color right up to the amount of freckles each of us was cursed with. My daughter now sleeps with her "Holly Dolly", who is looking a bit more aged than I am, if I may say so myself :) Cable knit sweaters, a doll house by Dad (whose creativity seeps out every now and then) and umpteen dozen Barbie outfits, just to name a few, were more treasured than any expensive gadget ever was. The thoughtfulness, uniqueness and personalization of the gifts...not the amount of them... left a great impression on me.

I have sought to replicate this atmosphere in our home at Christmastime. With the exception of a slight burnt smell to the baked goods, the absence of a cozy brick fireplace and Phillips Craig and Dean in place of the Gaithers (sorry Bill and Gloria), I think I'm keeping the tradition alive. One thing is for sure. The spotlight was always on the baby. Jesus was always the centerpiece, focus and meaning behind all of it. His beauty reflected in the decor, His musical praises filling the air, the feasting in celebration of Him and His sacrificial, servant spirit of love wrapping every gift. Santa was a benign fairy tale that may have made a momentary appearance on the odd wrapping paper or sing-along song, but Jesus...He was and still is what makes the whole thing magical.

magical (n.): "Art of influencing events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces."

He produces marvels using His own natural forces.
He influences all the events of our lives.
He is hidden to those who refuse to believe.
Without Him, Christmas would just be fluffy snow and empty stockings.

...believe...and experience the fullness of His glory!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Decorating with Fingerprints


Ever feel stuck? Ever feel like you know exactly what you want and how to get there, but someone or something is blocking your way? I've been feeling stuck for a long while now...in my pursuit of a NEAT AND TIDY HOUSE. It's not really very messy most of the time, but it's rarely at the level of order and visual pleasure that I desire...and I have 5 someones blocking my way to Martha Stewart utopia, not to mention the gazillion somethings that prohibit the use of my waking hours shoveling my pathway to that serene place. I dream about it. I plan and scheme to make it happen. Then life interrupts my strategy and I get discouraged.

I will never understand how living, breathing, fully functioning human beings do not notice the feeling of misplaced clothing under their feet (even if they trip on them)... Blueberries, permanently making their mark on the kitchen floor...chunks of rice stuck to the bottom of their socked feet upon leaving the dinner table...important school books and papers laying there, protecting the hardwood floors from, heaven forbid, someone walking on them. The white, porcelain bathroom sink polka dotted with pink and blue toothpaste blobs...that's as far as I'll go in the bathroom for your sake. DVD's, although not nearly as comfortable as throw cushions, scattering the sofa waiting for someone to lounge upon them...and far from finally, our magical lawn growing grass, dandelions, bicycles and swords. Call me hypersensitive, but I just can't help but prefer not to live with these oddities.

I asked the kids the other day at the dinner table, if they could change one thing about me, what would it be. All but one said that I wouldn't be so wound up and snappy about things...especially the neatness of the house. Refraining from the normal, "Oh ya, well if you would just..." response, I gracefully thanked them for their honesty and asked for them to prayer for me in that area of spiritual transformation. With a gentle smile and no expectation of an opportunity for me to "share" my beefs with them, I accepted their assessment. I know I can be snappy. I know I get wound up. I know I want a neat and tidy house REALLY BADLY (did I use "badly" properly?).

I need to want a gentle and quiet spirit more.

I'm not there yet. I just can't seem to let go of my domestic dream. If the place were a constant pig sty, I would feel justified in my expectation, but I don't think it is. I refuse to take the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach, so my battle strategy is to take one territory at a time. Stealthily and well thought out, I will gain control and occupy the entire house, with flowers, fine scents, organized shelf baskets and visible floors. For now, my sites are set on only the main living areas. The living room, kitchen and family room...they will me mine. All the others have doors that I can shut and remove the carnage from my sight. As all good world dictators would be, I shall be charming, calm and patient. I will not show all of my cards. Someday, they will all wake up and realize that this house is mine, it is in fine order and smells great.

Something tells me though, that they will likely be waking up in another bed, in their own disarrayed house when that blessed day arrives.

But I like them in my house. I like them waking up in these beds. I guess I should focus my discontented eyes on the fact they are still here with me. I love that. I love the smell of their cheeks when I kiss them good morning (even the whiskery ones). I love the stick man artwork that clutters the walls. I love the grass stained, hole ridden army pants that tell of my son's joyful activity and the dirty dishes that remind me of the fact that I am nourishing my own children and not someone else. I can even love the dirty fingerprints left on the stairway walls that mark their awesome presence in my life. They are all fingerprints. All marks of their young, emerging personalities. Imperfect, unfinished and God designed...like mine.

I wonder how many kids Martha Stewart has? I wouldn't trade mine for all the "Good Housekeeping" cover spreads in the world. Ok then, I like where I'm stuck.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Searching for the Backdoor



Fail. The real "F" word. What a horrible word. The dreaded grading letter that makes a student cringe and a parent's eyebrows furrow. I managed to dodge the unacceptable letter for most of my academic career...until Dr.Mantz. Twelve years of public school under my belt, then in college, it happened. I received and F+++ on a literature paper. My reaction was not expected...I laughed and laughed. Stared at it for awhile until the truth set in, then set on a journey to find out what happened to my stellar academic career.
Truthfully, I met my match with Dr.Mantz. Being more of a science type, I couldn't get my brain around, beside nor in the vicinity of this world of literature. My high school experience somehow missed that class...but passed me anyway. Later on, I was relieved and impressed with Dr.Mantz's final exam. There were 3 essay questions that had to be about 3 pages long each, all of which I had insufficient knowledge. I started to see that "F" appear on the front of my paper again, until I read essay question #4. It read something like this:

"Write 3 pages on anything you know anything about from our classes this semester."

Now that I could do. I wrote and wrote about who knows what and passed the exam with great relief. I never forgot that approach. It became more and more important to me as I studied about education and began homeschooling.
We are so programmed to study and regurgitate information in order to get that checkmark, that we forget what real knowledge is. Sure, we have to be able to write tests to some extent, but intelligence is far more complex than just being a good test taker (which is what I was). I will feel justified in giving the "checkmark" when my kids can narrate to me something they have learned, in their own words, written and orally. Not an easy task. Especially when every third word tends to be "like" or "um", and because for some, a pen in hand means "it's time for a nap".
I don't always decide what they must know, their brains guide me. Their aptitudes and interests give me insight into what God has planned for them. There is no way they can learn everything about everything, so somehow, we teachers have to filter through the endless topics, books and activities to choose each student's course of study. Then focus in and master these things...without letting those other rejected topics seduce us into more brain cramming. I have heard this message so many times now from veteran homeschool Moms and their graduated, successful students. This is really a great relief to me. They don't have to KNOW everything, they just have to able to efficiently and independently LEARN anything they want to. My job is to plant the tools firmly into their hands, not to fill their heads with trivia.

Retaining knowledge is the key, not just being able to memorize and reproduce information only to forget it a year later. My husband never forgets anything. It's highly annoying, but I wish I could be that annoying. That's why he rarely had to study, while I beat my brain to death for exams. One catalyst for this kind of true learning is interest. If you are interested in something, you will burn those memory paths in your brain "real good". So, I set out to major on the subjects of interest and then, find ways to make those undesirable, yet necessary things more interesting and acceptable. If that doesn't work... just do it anyway...that's life...hopefully not most of life, but some of life.

My 10 year old has definite learning issues. His ability to recall is extremely impaired...even the names of people in our church he has known for his whole life can refuse to come to him. He can recognize sufficiently, but names and words do NOT come easily. For this reason, his reading list is very short and he may never be a prolific writer. However, there is a budding scientist or engineer looming behind those chocolate brown eyes. I wish there was a window into his mind because I'm sure the intelligence held within is captivating. It often comes out in his doodling and questions. My job is to provide a door for him to express that knowledge and ability. The usual door is locked, so I am searching for another.

I fear sometimes, that I'm not looking hard enough or in the right places, but I know God will help us. He will show us the way in His perfect timing. For now, we plug along with dedication and dive into what we can. It may require my bathroom becoming a science lab, hundreds of doodle papers strewn about the house and board game pieces arranged into a battle-plan on every table, but we will tolerate the disarray of creativity.

The school system diagnosed Einstein as mentally retarded. Sometimes outward appearances are inaccurate, and we must not be quick to lower our expectations. Although, I think his mom could have done something about his hair.

The science lab:




The "not so mad scientist":

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Untidys


The weekend.
Most people live for the weekend.
Most people look forward to the relaxation and rest from the "workweek".
The 24 or so hours that begin our weekend are...well, let's just say...a change is as good as a rest. It is fun, it is active, it is memorable...but oh, the aftermath!

Friday night is "treatnight" for our kids. Originally meant to be the one night of the week that they get to have sugary, dye filled and chemically laced specialties. Ya right. Life happens when you are busy making plans. BUT, they still insist on cuddling with Coke, movie and several friends until the wee hours of the night, after a fun filled evening at AWANA and Youth Group. For me...that would be about 11:00 pm. I know...I'm a party animal. Dad bunks with the boys downstairs and my princess and I have our own little sleepover in my room, while we watch about 5 minutes of George Strombolopolousseeeee...whatever...if he is interviewing someone interesting. The guest last night was Kermit the Frog, so we pried our eyes open for a few extra minutes.

Cozy and fun...until I wake up and look at the "morning after" mess. I thought, why not share some images with you of what I usually wake up to. Just to keep it real, you know. Saturday morning carnage.

So, this is the bachelor pad.
No Beer cans.
Scented Yankee candle on the end table for "I can't imagine why":



This is where the intense card game (Go Fish) takes place.
Gambling for suckers.
Wild and crazy bunch:




There IS a sink under there somewhere...



Laundry isn't too bad this week...only 3 loads behind!

Fortunately I am a morning person. SO, if I just keep my eyes closed in the evening and only ponder the mess in the AM...it's no problem! I just put my SuperMom cape on, wiggle my nose, set Grooveshark on something with a springy beat and dive on in. I actually really like Saturdays. I love cleaning up to the music and not having to think about appositives and algebra for a day. Everyone in my family knows the joy I feel when looking upon a neat and organized house. That is what Saturdays are for. I am pleased to add the disclaimer that these pictures are NOT representative of our Monday to Friday etiquette. I could not function in this kind of mess from day to day...it's just a "let your hair down" kind of episode.

Then, at the end of my Holly Maid day, I peek into my oldest boy's room...and almost started to cry...


Without prompting...without coercion, waterboarding nor withholding food, my 16 year old CLEANED HIS ROOM! EVEN VACUUMED IT!!!!!!!!! I'm not sure why there is a Kid's foam chair in the windowsill...I'm not going to complain though.

I mean, cleaned and organized! Even the coins on his dresser were in order! It might look like WW3 tomorrow, but I don't care, I now know it can be done and I will grab a hold of that light at the end of the tunnel.

These are very special moments in a mom's life.
Milestones.
SIXTEEN years in the making.
My baby boy is growing up.
Tears...happy tears.

I think I may have an ally in my cleanliness corner...it's been lonely :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sticky Pillowcases


What a little person will do for candy is quite amazing. I remember those cold, dark nights on many October 31st evenings. The discomfort of that bulky costume, the cold, wet nylon stretched over my face for that ghostly effect and knowing that I was missing that Charlie Brown special made the trek more wearisome. In and out...in and out...in and out...of that warm cozy car in pursuit of the sugary Mother Lode. Tired and frozen toed, I returned home to set up shop on the kitchen chairs and start the wheeling and dealing trades with my sisters. Our brown bag lunches were something pretty special the next day. It was my birthday the next day too, so that was my calm after the storm. The whole experience was just a price I chose to pay for the treats. Not really very exciting...nothing at all like Christmas.

As an adult, I tend to enjoy Halloween much more. I love seeing the local kids growing every year, all the mini visits with my neighbors, sitting in my warm van with a hot mug in hand as the kids gather their treasure and just the feeling of community I get as I watch a whole street bustle with fun and sharing. It's short and sweet (pardon the pun). We always take the opportunity to share the gospel with everyone we give or receive treats from in the form of Adventures in Odyssey CD's or tracts in their treat bag as well. What a great night to double up on door to door ministry!

I realize the pagan roots of Halloween as well as other holidays we celebrate, and the controversy revolving around the issue. Obviously, I want nothing to do with the demonic theme that surrounds this night. My kids never dress up in anything that is not "noble, pure, lovely or admirable" in keeping with Philippians 4:8 and we keep the night simple...devoid of any recognition of it's past heresies. I beleive in redemption. I believe in taking something awful, digusting and wrong and turning it into something of value. Only Jesus can do this...he did it with me so I know He can do with with anyone or anything. Costumes, candy and darkness are not wrong, they all come from God, it's how you use them that matters. I do not look to the roots of things to decide if they should be part of my life. If that were the case, we'd all have to change our last names because there will always be some skeleton in the closet of every family tree.

"Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 3:13-14

Until I am convicted otherwise, there will be a stash of junk food hidden somewhere in my house that I will find next October, melted, sticky and unused. Another pillowcase ruined.

Redeem the night!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Embrace the Short People


I have to confess something. I must confess that I had an absolutely amazing time last night doing childrens' ministry. Spending a Friday night, after a long work week, with 40 some, hyper little ragamuffins might not sound thrilling...but it often is. I am a red shirted AWANA Sparky leader...and happy to be. Although the mind leans toward a hot cup of peppermint tea and a movie, my body moves into that little church classroom with several red vested 6 year olds bursting with stories of their eventful week.

On the verge of a headache and possibly chills, I just let myself relax on the book work for a moment and fell into these little tales of mischief and adventure. I have never laughed so much at AWANA as I did last night. I was bursting with endearment and refrained from cheek pinching for 30 minutes straight. I had 3 sources of cuteness to behold in my little group. One wild and crazy boy with a huge vocabulary and a heart of gold, was in the mood for confession...he held a sobering face as he dictated to me some imaginative situations that he felt needed forgiveness. Trying not to laugh, I assured him that God forgives anything, even if it involves slaying someone's dragon with a sharp knife.

Another boy used the word "fiend" continually until I took the time to ask him what it meant. After proudly explaining it to me, I carried the game on using the descriptive noun as often as I could...in or out of context...just to make sure he was still with me. His face glowed every time I did. The sole little girl in my group must have been paying close attention to my lesson. I taught about Paul writing a letter to the Philippians while he was suffering in jail. He told them to rejoice always, be gentle to others and not to worry. Well, she grabbed hold of the gentleness thing and ran with it. Every time she used her little whiny voice to target one of those annoying boys, she quickly changed her tone to one more like Mother Theresa, while looking straight at me for approval. My head pats and smiles sent her through the roof. We are friends for life...that's FRIENDS not FIENDS...it's kind of stuck in my mind right now.

It was a wonderful, relaxing and soulful two hours. Spend some time looking deep into the life filled, bright eyes of a young child and listen carefully to their stories...it might just surprise you how fun they are. Get involved in their games and join in their laughter. Appreciate their hugs and respect their God given personality. Get short for awhile, even if it hurts your knees. Let go of big people ideas and accept their eager invitation to be carefree and imaginative. It's their gift to us and I am grateful for having it every Friday night.

After the evening's activities come to an abrupt close, all of the colorful leader shirts appear with bags, books and jackets hanging from every limb. We plop onto the back pews for a little regrouping, then I head home for that peppermint tea, movie and cuddles with my very own special little ragamuffins. Sometimes...often...I wish that they would never grow up. I love that innocent and forgiving age. Often disregarded...often ignored because of the bustle of life...but never for long. Thankfully, I am reminded of the blessing they bring and get short...to look at life on their level and enjoy the view from there. Dragons, princesses, sparkly hair bands and baby teeth smiles are all around. A nice change form laundry, dishes, schedules and big people problems.

No wonder kids keep you young, if you look past the work and into their ever loving hearts.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Bit Boot Crazy




When I was a little girl, I had major feelings. That hormonal brain bath that happens in per-adolescence really affected my thoughts and my affections. The daydreaming started, the deep thoughts were born and Movie stars became real to me. As a little girl with "sensible" sisters, I thought I was maybe a bit crazy...fortunately I had a pseudo-sister (Allie) who was just as crazy as me, so I realized I wasn't all alone in this dreamy world. Her laughter, harmless antics and loyalty made me feel like I could escape the crazys for awhile and just be a kid. A breath of fresh, carefree air.

There were places I would go that made me feel comfortable and sane. Places that were quiet, pretty and alone. The woods behind our house went on forever. Big rocks, brooks, ferns and open field spots to catch the sunbeams were readily available and safe. Something about the scent of those places and the sound of peace cannot be replicated in a Yankee candle or on a nature CD. It was total immersion. Thick and forever. I could have stayed in that place all day long, but my mother's cooking was too good and I got hungry. But it was faithfully there for me, just a few steps away behind my house. On the other side of our home was the river. With open, clean air, the soothing beat of the waves and full access to the warming sun. I had another oasis to rest my mind and be alone with God.

People talk about the advantage of having quiet times and places to go to, but the older you get the more you realize just how vital they are. See, God knew that I would need a lot of that "quiet time" escaping, so He surrounded me with opportunity to get myself together. God has always planted me in the country. I think I would suffocate and die very quickly in the city. I love to visit the city, with it's bright lights, high energy and bustle of activity, but my poor overloaded brain needs to be able to hit the eject button upon my will for quick escape, should I feel the need. After a stimulating trip to town, I pull into my dirt driveway, step out of my car and face the open field framed by sky and forest. I stand in silence taking in the "welcome home" sung by crickets and decorated by starry hosts. A fish thrown back into the life-giving water.

I rarely listen to Shania Twain, we have no horses and I don't own a pair of cowboy boots, but I think country is my middle name. I'm deeply in love with it's character and beautiful face. Something about it's music just makes my heart dance and let out a big sigh. Horses are too much work right now, although that would be my vehicle of choice. And about the boots...I love cowboy boots...to look at...but I've never tried a pair on. I notice them on anyone, with admiration. I figure they are not comfy enough to wear for the look, just for the purpose. Maybe someday I'll step into a pair and be transformed. My little girl has a red pair and dons them regularly with skirts, shorts and pj's. She looks fabulous, so I'll live vicariously through her on this one. If there was a Birkenstock version of cowboy boots, I might reconsider. Maybe it's the relaxed atmosphere and the "back to nature" aroma of anything country, but whatever it is, it's intoxicating.

That little girl got bigger and so did her crazy feelings and daydreams. By the grace of God, her country boundaries expanded too, giving her more therapy opportunities and places to press the "reset" button. Who needs a leather couch and a shrink? I've got grassy fields to lay in and a vast sky to carry my prayers.


Fun boots.


Escaping boots.



O my...relaxing boots.


Wedding boots.


Chocolate boots.


Painted boots.


Oooo! RUBY RED BOOTS!



...and for Stacey Lynn...Han Solo boots :)


Ok, so I went a little too far here...but there are so many nice boot pictures online!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Empty Calories


When I lay my head down on my buckwheat pillow every night, I ponder the day...briefly...because I fall asleep very fast. Did I do things that meant something? Did I redeem the time, or just use it for my own pleasure? I'm a big fan of pleasure, but I also have a strong aversion to empty calories. Those things that I do that feel good, but lack sustenance...hold nothing of eternal value. Sleep is much sweeter when I know that I have been used of God for some of His purposes, whether great or small, as long as He has had His way with me.

It doesn't take long to notice people all around me engaging in seemingly shallow activities. I realize that I can't always see what is going on behind the scenes in their lives, but the glimpses can often be very telling. People looking happy and fulfilled, yet having no lasting reward. I just WONDER. I don't really KNOW. I hope for them, pray for them and spur myself on to greater fulfillment. The older I get, the more disappointing physical or worldly pleasures have become. Ice cream just doesn't taste as good as it used to. Christmas isn't as magical as it used to be. Dates with my husband aren't as relaxing as I used to find them. Kind of depressing, but a truth that can lead me to greater satisfaction.

Once this sad epiphany settled in, I set my mind to finding the meat and potatoes of life. I know it's Jesus, but what form of Him? What practical useage of my relationship with Him? The words don't reveal the "how to" of Him being the answer to finding joy. Jesus needs to be real and vibrant in our lives in order to really change and satisfy us. Trying to take the spiritual and turn it into the physical is a process. It's a learning, timely revelation orchestrated by Jesus himself. Letting go of the obvious pleasures of life to engage in the hidden treasures at His right hand, takes a little convincing. It's like taking candy from a baby and trying to interest him in a broccoli tree. Eventually though, you get tired of all the failed attempts at fulfillment and just give in. Let go of the lie and hand over your plate to Him. Eating from the hand of God can be surprisingly tasty. Retreating from life's rat race and indulging in His character is like a great big glass of fresh well water for a thirsty soul.

His simplicity...freeing for my mind.
His faithfulness...soothing for my worried insides.
His creativity...inspirational for my desires.
His discipline...comforting for my imperfections.
His humor...just makes me see that He is real.
His patience...relieves my urgency.
His grace...always gives me something to look forward to.

I could go on and on, but these kinds of things are deep, healthy, lasting and delicious. I really like this menu much better than the one I used to sample. I will be a regular at His table and there is much more room for anyone to join us. Pull up a chair today and dig in.

Q. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to ENJOY him forever
(boldness added)

-The Westminster Shorter Catechism

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I'm trying VERY hard to keep this schooling boat afloat. Teaching 4 kids, at different age levels, approximately 10 subjects of various depth, housework, healthy cooking, ministries, exercise and hobbies...well let's just say, I sometimes forget to do some of those things. I'm focusing my attention on the priorities, and doing those FIRST in the daily schedule. The hobbies come at the end of the day, while Bible, reading, math and writing get first pickings in the morning. By the afternoon, I'm sometimes too brain dead to tackle the secondary subjects, like science and history. But I LOVE those two...more than teaching reading or math...so that motivates my tired soul to "get r' done". Today, I mustered up the gusto to do science with the younger kids.

Apologia science is excellent for Jr and High schoolers:


I have made more great changes in our routine and curriculum this year. The most important being the focus on improving the reading of my two youngest kids. I bought a great little book called "Reading Rescue 1-2-3" by Peggy M.Wilber. It has been a big help in accelerating the fluency and confidence of my struggling readers.


Another 2 in 1 find is Sandy Queen's "Pictures in Cursive", which combines handwriting practice with picture study...LOVE this:




I still feel VERY strongly that the geography game on Shepherd Software is the answer to all of life's questions. Well maybe not ALL, but certainly for those "Where in the world?" questions. I still play it, the kids still like it and it is SO essential in order to follow world news...if you care about that:

http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/Geography.htm

Finding a way to add time to my day or to walk through it with a completely carefree and gentle spirit has not happened yet. I am still in pursuit of one or both of these dreams. In the meantime, I continue to reach forward with music in my ears, God's Word in my heart and a pretty things before my eyes. I AM that "mature student" in the Myers' Homeschool...always learning and loving it :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paint, Bread and Dr.Seuss

Oh my...I'm going through withdrawal. My computer has been down for awhile and I'm in need of a stroll in my Ruby Red Shoes. School is well underway, with writing assignments, math blocks and library books decorating the dinning room again. I'll have to write another blog about some of my great school finds this season...there are so many good things out there.

Anyhow, I thought I'd share some of the things I've been enjoying lately. Especially one...PAINTING CLASS! Real, live, professional instruction...right across the road from my house...not kidding...across the road...like steps away. God knew I wouldn't go out of my way to do something like this, so He got in my face, took away all of my excuses and said "You are going to do this". I did NOT kick and scream. I stood, jaw dropped and thankful that I can have such a pleasure without feeling guilty or selfish at this busy time in life. Great time, great location and great price and absolutely great teacher...Diane Davis...from Browns Flat. I'll have to find some of her work to show off. AMAZING...just what I like. SO glad it's not a Picasso type painter instructing me...I don't need more asymmetry in my life. Realistic Impressionism...much more desirable and pleasing to my eye. I'm still messing around with flowers however, so here are the latest attempts:







...and if you like this:

...then you might like this:

...I'm not thrilled with this one...strange perspective on the flowers.

I'm also enjoying this:

Not so much making them, but having them and eating them is wonderful. I'm not enamored with the sticky, detailed, timely process of canning...but do it anyway.

...and this!!!

I got tired of the price of bread for 6 people...and the lack of nutrition in the affordable loaves. So with this baby, I can make 6 loaves in about 3-4 hours! Yummy, stone ground wheat bread, fresh from the oven! Even though my new convertible (top comes off) was pricey, it's still cheaper in the long run.

Check out the horsepower in this little sweetheart:


...it's a bit of my Dad coming out in me :) Funny how "Bosch" and "Porsche" sound similar.
I am the "Bosch" in this kitchen ;)

And the last thing I'll share with you is this:


The younger ragamuffins and I are completely back into Dr.Seuss lately. Such a fun way to start the school year off. Actually, my second oldest boy, who sometimes displays Jim Carey moments...to my great distress...has been listening to us read Suessy stories and can spontaneously create his own. Pretty good ones too. Some gifts we don't ask for, but try to find the light in them and just smile.

So now I've updated you a bit...so no one thinks I've been in a coma or kidnapped or anything. Just painting, gardening, reading and cruising in my Bosch. I have a love affair with homemade bread. I can thank my Mom for that...she is the real Bosch of bread making :)



Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Passion of Red

Not that I would ever wear shoes with heels as high as the ones in my blog picture. I swore off these death traps when I almost fell, dropping my newborn baby on concrete...it was one of those, "What am I thinking?" moments. I still look longingly at beautiful, high heeled shoes at times, but I prefer to look at them than to wear them. My happy feet and back smile as I enjoy glances at the adorned feet and awkward gates of women still true to fashion.

I love shoe stores. I love trying them on with my little girl in Valu Village, but I seldom buy anything but Birks, Clarkes, Earth Shoes, New Balance or Dr Sholls. My shoe closet's pallet contains shades of brown and black...with the exception of one pair of dark RED...for those crazy days when I need to feel a bit extreme. Red is a passionate color and so, I'd be lying if I never showed that side of my personality in my wardrobe. Once in awhile, I have to let off some energy. I have to express the excitement, the joy and sometimes the concerns that build up in my little, curly head. This blog kind of does that...it is my red shoes...my moment of expression.

Red is also:

...the color of the blood that flowed
Down the face of Someone Who loved us so...

Petra

.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Given to Change

I was getting very tired of my blog title...not sitting right with me...so I decided to get a little more creative and try a different one. It reflects my life's work, where my heart is and...well...I do love the color red...and shoes. Like Dorothy, I have realized that there is nothing better than being at and working from home, after chasing other means of fulfillment. Home is definitely where my heart is. Since I really can't rearrange my furniture at this time, my blog will have to be my outlet for visual change. Don't expect it to stay this way for long...but for awhile...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hugo and Irene...Starcrossed Lovers

The Sky Lodge...Clinton, PEI


Sometimes, the best experiences are unplanned, surprises from God. My husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this past month and wanted to do something special. Cruises, jewelry and being far from home don't excite either of us too much, so what do two Fuddy Duddies do on such an occasion?? Going to a movie and dinner is just lame for a 20 year mark.

We spent our honeymoon on PEI for 4 days. Four days on a beautiful island, during hurricane Hugo...and we were both very sick. Not your ideal dream vacation. I had always thought about having a "do over" honeymoon there someday, so that seemed like a good idea for the Fuddie Duddies. It just so happened that we met a lovely, musical Christian family early in the summer who run a lodge on the Island and welcomed us to come anytime and stay with them. Ok...the plan is coming together.

Neither of us is very good at sitting on the beach and walking around site seeing for a very long time either, so we kind of wanted something to do too. Well..it just so happened that a very well known author/speaker we both enjoy was scheduled to speak in Charlottetown that month...good! Something special to do too! My plan is REALLY coming together now.

I don't know if we had a moment of insanity or if we are just suckers for punishment, but after realizing that the conference speaker, Joshua Harris, is someone our kids really enjoy too, we decided to take our two teenagers along with us...on our second honeymoon...on our romantic Island getaway...early dementia is definitely here. So, the four of us headed off into he sunset, rap music blaring from our little Civic, skateboards in tow. We just can't seem to get this getaway thing right. I know...it's our own fault.

The next three days were the most delightful days we have had for a long time. The weather was perfect, the Island beautiful, the conference inspiring, the time and conversation with the boys was unforgettable and the Lodge...well I just can't say enough about the Lodge. You just have to see it to appreciate it. Not just the place itself, but the people we have come to know there are, in the words of Anne Shirley herself, kindred spirits. We have found another home away from home...in a wonderful vacation spot.

We were a bit stunned at the blessings poured out on us this particular weekend...mostly spiritually speaking, but physically too. We really needed the peaceful retreat of the unfamiliar countryside, the joyful music of the conference band, the wise guidance of a respected speaker...and lobster...we really needed lobster. After driving around several red backroads, we finally found a REASONABLE price to enjoy our traditional anniversary meal. Honestly, you would think these scavengers held the "pearl within" for the price they charge to have one. My conscience just couldn't pay it. But God, in his graciousness, performed a miracle and prevented us from having to endure one more Big Mac by candlelight...and I slept fine that night relieved from fiscal irresponsibility. It was entertaining to watch my two big boys eating with bibs again :)

There was a sense of romance to the weekend too. Our friends at the Lodge just would not hear of the 4 of us sharing a room on this occasion, so they arranged a room for our boys, two floors below us...we had the honeymoon suite...lovingly arranged with all the romantic features we seemed to miss out on 20 years ago. Fortunately, the boys are of the age that we can dump them and take off occasionally...so we did that too. They were chomping at the bit to skateboard. They enjoyed a couple of hours at the town skatepark, while we strolled along the shoreline, then downtown Charlottetown, with it's quaint shops and bistros. We enjoyed gourmet Greek nachos at one such yuppie hangout, as we analyzed our fuddie duddieness with snickers of contentment.

I cannot tell you how unnecessary, but completely welcome romantic moments like this are. This date reminded me of how complete I am in my relationship with my "Guy", how everything we have been through together has shaped and defined who we are now and how I have absolute faith in God's design for marriage. I really didn't when I was younger, but His faithfulness has proved His wisdom and we are reaping the joy of following Him.

God knows what you need and when you need it. We couldn't have planned this weekend any better than He did. I wasn't your prescribed treatment plan for romance and relaxation, but it was exactly what we needed. Having the boys with us and the unique conversations we had with them were like reminders of what our long term love was producing. They expressed their appreciation to us for including them in this getaway, and we had no idea of the impact it had on them. They really are deeper than the comic books they read.

We returned home just before hurricane Irene hit the Maritimes. There was NO WAY I was going to share another weekend on that beautiful Island with another torrent like Hugo. They were not invited to our party 20 years ago, nor this time. Our boys were welcome, but not the storms.

I've been surprised by this truth. Romance is overrated, but love is not.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

For Everything There is a Season


What do you call a person who feels the pressure to do everything people ask them to? Is that a people pleaser? I have to consciously awaken myself to fact that I do just that. Like a thoughtless robot...must...do...what...that...person...wants...me...to. Even when I do clue in to the realization that I have to say "no", I feel the guilt and shame of "letting them down". My mind, body and soul just cannot keep up with the demands of others...even my own. I want to do EVERYTHING! I want to teach 20 subjects to the kids, master the kitchen creations, learn to sew, read stacks of books, start new ministries, renew my relationship with my piano, visit long lost friends, and paint till the cows come home. Then, when I've done all of that, I have priority lists number 2, 3 and 4 to begin!

Sometimes it feels like my head will explode with the speed at which it is thinking, dreaming, planning and wondering what will actually take place. Then some sweet person, with wonderful intentions and dreams of their own, asks me to join them on a new adventure. I stand stunned in their presence, trying to take in this new dream...cramming it in between my own. I can almost hear these sweet dreams fighting over position in my brain. Some dreams get squashed by bigger ones and some get kicked out completely. All waiting for me to actually put one into action. Little do any of them know that the probability of their becoming a reality is slim to none. There is this big monster, a dream quencher called reality that blocks the way...for now.

There are stages of life that we go through that are more or less conducive to these high and good intentions. When you are in the middle of raising children, there truly isn't much time nor energy to do much else. Unless, of course, you don't mind sacrificing some of their training for other things. I just cannot justify using very much of those precious, fleeting, golden moments for anything else. I don't mean making money for them to have more stuff, or killing myself trying to give them every extra curricular activity under the sun either, I mean my presence and their training. I am convinced that kids want, more than anything, to just be with you. Yes...more than a wii...more than clothes...more than ice cream...they want me. Strange, but true. I'm amazed every day at the love that my children have for their father and me...warts and all. It's mind boggling.

I made myself put down my garden basket last night in order to play badminton with one of my boys. My mind was worrying that those beans would be too big if I picked them tomorrow...but my boy would be too big to love this way if I put off playing today. We had such a great time, laughing at each other and improving our game...my reaction time has significantly decreased over the years...too bad my weight hasn't. When we were done, he just cuddled up beside me until bedtime, recalling his best moves of our game and my best misses. Unforgettable, really. It is nice though, that the older the kids get, the more able they are to join us in some of the hobbies and adventures we have tucked away during those diaper and nursing years...and we join them in theirs.

There are many forces in the world that want my kids' hearts. They want to mold them, teach them and prepare them for other, less virtuous purposes than that of a Christian. I used to be a "pie in the sky", "everyone means well" kind of person, but not anymore. I am not unaware of the Devil's schemes and as long as it depends on me, He cannot have my kids. So, it just seems logical that WE train them in every way possible. I know that if something happened to either or both of my husband or me, God is greater than circumstance and He would take care of them, but as long as we are here, we will not hand them over to another teacher...so that we can pursue other dreams. God willing, there will be plenty of time for that once the kids have a different addresses than ours.

For now, I am smack dab in the middle of a busy, time consuming and privileged job...and happy to be here. The other big dreams and ideas that are trying to crowd out this not so impressive or glamorous intention, are going to have to take a number, find a magazine and sit in the waiting room. I'm busy playing badminton with the most important souls in the world :)