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Dear Delightful Thoughts of School,

I realize I sat down here thinking “I’ll just make a quick list of things I should focus on tomorrow to make sure all the priority 1’s get accomplished before I get distracted by priority 2’s.” which opened the door to your whole raggedy lot, but

GET OUT! BEGONE!

No, I don’t want to make ‘activity dice’ or come up with other activity rotation plans to help occupy the pre-K and toddler at key points in the day. No, I don’t want to immediately mentally reread every montessori/charlotte mason/classical ed homeschool organization/misc education book I’ve ever read or even think about Educating the Whole-Hearted Child which I am normally up for (and thanks a lot for reminding me that that one bit the dust, thus creating a neat little bunny-trail to all things mold-hatred related!)

No, I don’t want to make cool Bruce Lee clips to show and an accompanying poster of his not fearing the guy who has done 1,000 kicks, but the one who has done 1 kick 1,000 times thing-a-jig as a ‘kick’ off (yes, yes… very clever! Or at least punny.) for our highly neglected, much remedy needed copywork efforts or consider what tactic I will take to do the actual remedying.

I don’t want to try to find the recently and hastily relocated school books we own, figure out what we need, order books, consider creative/effective memory work review ideas, consider putting a few ‘teacher’s hung up on something right now’ go-to things in place, try to adapt Shurley English to replace Essentials for Orion in a way that doesn’t make it annoyingly/unhelpfully overlap other things we will be doing, figure out how to get that awesome music program that was supposed to be life-savingly simple but instead has been a pain in the rear to even load despite tech support tips to actually load/run, decide which subjects go where/when/how/in cooperation with whom on which days, or whether or not to start where we left off last year or just start at the beginning of the next book, or what pattern our weeks/months/days off will take to fit everything in or any of the other multitudinous aspects of this too quickly approaching year.

No, I don’t want to figure out how to make up for the lost time of not starting punctually, whether or not to formalize our currently ‘let’s dabble in this’ approach to various language stuffs, or start comparing options of how to simplify our school year by doing something completely different (what about that one that you looked at end of year last year, how much would it need adapted, let’s compare… STOP IT!)

And no, I absolutely do NOT want to answer or return the persistent phone calls of that ‘free online school’ I foolishly signed up to get EMAIL information from before making that last decision against looking for something completely different!

Just take that whole messed up, missing pieces, advanced level, no edges, all the pieces look the same puzzle and stick it back in the box, duct tape it shut and lock it in a safe behind an equally secured vault behind a fastened door somewhere until the potatoes have been dug/stored, elderberries picked, labor day is prepared for, end-of-summer activities are wrapped up, the girls’ room has had the crib traded out for a loft bed, the bunny she’s been waiting for since the end of June has been picked up, the youngest is potty-trained (ha!) and no longer using a sucker (what teeth?), the pool is no longer green or is torn down for the year, the trim-mowing is finished, the gutters are up the right way with covers to prevent future clogging and flooding during heavy storms, I’ve quit my most recent ‘I’m not cooking/we are using disposable everything’ binge and proven that we can still cope in that ‘normal’ situation of dishes and meals, cleaned out the fridge from the massive milk spill, cleaned out the freezer that thawed for an unknown but apparently extended period and then refroze, am consistently milking in a way that makes using the milk for human use afterwards somewhat more conceivable, the dog no longer looks like a home-less coyote (he doesn’t generally require much upkeep, truthfully, but he is rather late for his biannual brushing 😉 ), Lithany’s playhouse door has been replaced, I’ve met up with or called all the people to whom I owe visits/calls and… STAHP! Stahp it!

At the very least, come at me when I’m doing something that allows me to ponder life the universe and everything while doing it, and not when I’m just trying to get to dreamland.

Because, let’s face it. Try as you may to come singularly and in an orderly fashion with good timing, anymore you bring all that extra ‘to do’ baggage with you and tromp into the room much like a herd of stampeding elephants with no sense of rhythm having recently been introduced to roller blades! I am now but a pitiful shambles who can’t think of what I should do tomorrow beyond contacting one of the basement companies we decided not to use and finding/returning or at least renewing our now overdue library books because everything else is so convolutedly trampled beneath your onslaught. Pretty certain there were 2-3 equally urgent items that were supposed to be on that list.

Hopefully, I can think of them tomorrow.

If the stupid elephants stay out of the room long enough.

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We’ve had an incredibly crazy ‘back to real life’ transition after vacation. Just crazy. And disruptive. And uncomfortable. And stressful. And overwhelming. (The trip itself was amazing and awesome and definitely worth the post-trip stress and probably its own blog entry, however, I’m busy marveling at something tonight that I want to share instead.)

At one point, I came back from the barn close to tears because to top off the rest of our ever-lengthening ‘this needs done immediately’ list which lay atop the ‘pick up sticks’ list of things that needed done before the next urgent thing could be tackled (yes, it’s so overwhelming as to need that kind of confusing description!) was the looming possibility that Dandee’s mastitis was returning with a vengeance.

It never actually LEFT in the first place and started before we ever left on the 3rd. I was still getting (get out your ‘farm speak’ translator!) subclinical signs from the milk, though the quarter was in much better shape than the day I left, the antibiotics in her system were either to the point of drastically waning or gone and this was conveniently coinciding with the quarter steadily ballooning/forming hard spots over the last couple of days -all signs of it blowing up again. In which case, I would be going back to hot packing and milking every 3-4 hours which FEELS like constant milking all day and all night (and which makes getting ready for a long trip more difficult, I speak from experience now!)

Matt calmly, lovingly, encouragingly reminded me that none of these temporary nuisances are going to last forever, but I was still feeling like a complete and utter basket case… an exhausted one at that. After he left, I found myself pleading: “God, I am willing, if not exactly perfectly able at certain moments, to handle all the rest of this mess with the eternal perspective of a Christian, but I just can’t deal with mastitis on top of it all without curling up in a corner and whining pitifully for several days or maybe a month… or two… or 12… and in a padded room at that! Please just fix that one part!”

I probably wasn’t that eloquent, but He understood. He always does.

And knowing full well that God is not a genie and being cognizant of fact that God can/will do what He will do and that my job is to praise him whether it lines up with my ideals or not (but still trying to keep in balance the equally true idea that God also loves to give good things to His children… these kinds of tensions are at least one of the reasons why writing about spiritual things accurately is so difficult, FYI! 🙂 ), I went to bed dreading/resigned to an even fuller, more stressful day ‘tomorrow’ hoping only that I wouldn’t blow it completely in the face of adversity. Matt may be amazing, but he probably can’t handle it all by himself while I sign myself up for a vacation in the psych ward, so…

Now there simply isn’t any reason I can think of for actively developing mastitis (especially mastitis that’s been hanging on that long despite 2 rounds of antibiotics!) to reverse itself without some form of intervention as you nursing moms may know.

Yet, the milk looked almost perfect the next day.

And do you know, I haven’t once done an extra milking. I have spent an extra 5-10 minutes massaging the affected areas/very carefully stripping out that particular quarter each time which is but peanuts… putting a drop of water on a forest fire.

Instead of blowing up into a big issue like I expected, after a few days of fretful “Is it actually better? Why is this hard spot smaller today? Will the whole things be hard as a rock next milking? Clogged because I’m not taking proactive action (didn’t have time to do such things, or I would have at least started hot packing and milking 1-2 extra times as a precaution) Is this quarter ACTUALLY IMPROVING? Am I the delusional victim of wishful thinking?” it feels next to normal tonight. Now it’s not a blind man seeing or feeding the 5,000. There’s no guarantee it won’t be rock hard and completely plugged tomorrow. (hey, it happened to my substitute milkers right after the first round of antibiotics wore off and I was pretty sure that’s the road we were traveling again a few days ago!)

But for now, it appears that ‘the problem has resolved itself’ (my husband’s favorite Gulliver’s Travels line). It’s a ‘little’ thing.

But if you consider how great God is and how very small my daily ‘problems’ are by comparison (both to God Himself and to the scale of problems worldwide), God’s grace in these little things is a pretty BIG deal. Worth celebrating. Worth noting. And I thought it might even be worth sharing.

NEVER underestimate the power of a neighbor couple’s invite to use their shower.   Now if this were a totally random offer, the great power it wielded would likely be ‘creepiness’. 

“Hi!  It’s been so nice to chat with you over the fence.  Do you want to come over?  See my flowers?  Chat awhile?  Use my shower?  We just got a new hand held thing.  It’s amazing!  You want to take it for a spin!?”

Yeah, that would seem odd, even to me. 

However, when that offer is extended in the right circumstances…

Let me set up a ‘for instance’…

1) You spent yesterday afternoon/evening weeding in the ‘mud’ and slapping mosquitoes

2) You spent last night at grandma’s in a bed with a child that wakes you up from her crib in the next room when you’re home because she’s such a noisy/squirmy sleeper… and now she’s next to you… nuff said.   But hey, you read an entire book in a single night AND 

3) …you got started at dawn weeding in the ‘mud’ and slapping mosquitoes and continued in the same vein until noon.  (If you don’t understand why this is an integral part of the story, just dip your hand in mud or flap a very muddy weed root-ball around  and slap your arm a few times… then legs, shake your shirt so they get off your back, rub them off your neck, slap them out of your hair…. Instant mud monster.  That’s what it is!  Mud monster!  RAWR!) 

4) You came home this afternoon anticipating a shower/bath/hot tub pulled by a limo or something that will be absolutely heavenly after the kids are in bed (because at this point everyone is exhausted,  more because sleeping elsewhere = not asleep on time than due to weeding in their case, though they did assist often and well) since at this point it would be ludicrous to leave them to their own devices,

5) You ran ALL but the napping infant through the tub before realizing your electricity was… was… um… not exactly ‘off’, but working kind of like a starter in a car struggles to turn with a dead battery.  It was the WEIRDEST electricity problem I’ve ever seen.  dim lights in one area, things completely off in another, some things running sub-par, next to rooms operating perfectly. 

6) The electricity weirdness that you had resulted in a well pump not running, which meant those baths ran you completely out of running water which is not the focus of your concern; nevertheless, thank goodness for water bottles and wet wipes!.  This also means you left the hot water heater running empty while…

7) …You made a bajillion calls and waded through the rising basement water -sump pumps also need electricity to work- (wait, did I say we were OUT of running water?  We were out of CLEAN running water. There was plenty of ‘running’ water in our basement! 😉 Anyone wishing to backfill the entire basement and put just a regular old foundation under the house for cashews, please contact us.  It’s a big can of cashews and still mostly full.  If you wipe all memory of the beautiful “finished/rarely gets any water in it” basement ever existing from our brains, we’ll pay you peanuts too!) to look for possible solutions after being assured that neither the house nor the water contained therein was electrified or siphoning the power somewhere in a sinister plan to arc at you when you pass, making an electrocuted cartoon character-skeleton thing 

8) Watched the power company fix the electricity, waited for the well pump to catch up while I tried to make up for being all “Shhh!  I’m on the phone! SHHHH!” that evening with a few fun items, turned the water heater off (oops!) only to realize the well pump has pressure, but the pipes are apparently blocked.  Also, when I began to try several water sources to feel out the situation, my two year old was angry that I would not recreate that perfect, drinkable water trickle from the hydrant after it slowed…

and stopped. 

Angry, I say! 

“ON!  ON!!  DRINK!!!  OOOOOOOOoooooooONN!!”  (remember that this is an almost two year old who had no nap and a poor night yesterday plus a short nap today and imagine the appropriate amount of self-control)

“Flee to thine water bottle already granted thee, oh overwrought miscreant and be-est not a thorn in my weary flesh!”

Okay, so that last line was implied, not spoken. 

The good news, I don’t need to call an electrician tomorrow. 

The bad news, I probably need to call a plumber tomorrow. 

The good news, after taking advantage of the proferred shower and donning non-muddy clothes (and pieces of cake to bring home!) were obtained because our neighbors are the best and offered such luxuries while calling to see if we had figured out the electricity weirdness (I had called on the recommendation of one of the many advisors I’d been calling that evening to see if theirs was acting up too or if it was just our house.  They called back to see what I found out and ‘Is there anything we can do?’)

The bad news, I’m supposed to share the cake with my family or something! 

Bottom line, that offer of using the neighbor’s shower?  That one little joyful respite might just be the wave that carries me right on through trying to find a plumber that will hopefully come after the younger kids’ library thing at 10:30, but before or after the older kids’ one at 2:00, but not during the fire dept event at 5:30 and have it all fixed by the time my niece gets here that night.  

I’d consider just pre-emptively calling off the entirety of our ‘busy’ day, but the previous plan does seem spaced about right for bathroom/drink breaks if the plumber can’t be here right away… or at all… tomorrow…

Brothers/brother-in-laws who answer silly, random questions and grant good advice via phone…  also priceless.

And husbands that apologetically leave for work, but take the time to offer sympathies and help where he can before leaving… well, Matt’s pretty much always been my favorite so I might be biased, but I’d have to say that he ranks as invaluable. 

In the meantime, I’m sorely tempted to start fiddling with pipes and see if I can back-flush them myself, because.. you know… what could go wrong?!?  Especially when most of the items I put my hand to work so… um… smoothly.  And… um… not at all disastrously.   Because I’m so… handy.  And fix-it-y.  And stuff.  My {cough} record proves it. 

On the other hand, sleep sounds like the exact right follow-up to my no-longer-muddy state.  

Yeah, all of it is helpful. 

Let it never be said that I only broadcast “Homeschooling’s awesome!  Kids are GREAT! RAINBOWS! HAPPINESS! REAL CHOCOLATE WITHOUT CALORIES! We perpetually frolic in my home!!”

In the interest of keeping it real,

Here, have this pile of ‘what’s it’!

While I’m trying to teach a map lesson to ONE child, all four keep trying to jump in (not usually a problem!) which segued into our trip to CA coming up right around the corner in… oh right. Not until July.  JULY, GUYS! So can we table that discussion until I get done with 5 minutes of map explanation at least?… and their desire to travel… well… everywhere in the entire world! And are there really rattlesnakes at the place where they are pictured on the globe and how dangerous are earthquakes and well, volcanos are worse, I know (because I’m 6 now!) and will we be thirsty in the desert when we get there and, and, and.

I think that single 10 minute review lesson took us 40-50 minutes to get through.  At that point I began wishing we’d ‘taken a snow day’. 

The rest of the morning sounded a great deal like this the entire time I’m trying to teach and with precious few pauses in between:  “Mom, what does this say?” (random sentence on a non-school item) “Mom, where did the Joker come from? I mean, what’s his story and when did he first meet Batman?” (while doing math homework?) “Mommy, can I do a paper?”(non-schooled child) “MAAAAaaaaahm!” (from crib of awakened toddler).  “Mom, I’ve been thinking… {insert long, rambly topic that has nothing to do with anything}”

If I’d only outlawed the word “mom” half the noise in the house would not have happened!

That was just ONE of the many somehow very long but also short minutes that were today.  

I haven’t decided yet if my scatterbrain is genetic (because my offspring have it also) or environmentally induced (because we share the same weird environment). All I know is… we need focus, young grasshoppers! FOCUS!!!

Meanwhile, the toddler is, for example, begging for the things I’m putting in Matt’s lunch bag and creating an ozone layer of her own with her very obvious need for a clean diaper while I’m simultaneously trying to assist two children with a page they either don’t understand (child 1) or can’t read (child 3), wash a cup Matt needs for work, bake rolls for supper, and instruct another child on the virtue of not whining about not having chocolate milk before supper all while dodging the ‘broom rider’ running recklessly through the kitchen. 

But what she was doing while I was making Matt’s lunch is but a small crosssection of the toddler’s day, she was very good, really and no trouble at all… you know… when she wasn’t… oh… falling off the piano bench head first, perpetrating acts of marker violence to two of my teacher manuals, getting stuck in a chair in their bedroom, falling off the bunk bed ladder she shouldn’t have been on in the first place, taking another child’s seat (intentionally), dumping a water glass into our pan of brownies and generally wreaking havoc and destruction to herself, others, or inanimate items where’er she goeth. 

Then there was the reteaching of MULTIPLE concepts that we’d been doing successfully for weeks, while one child is impatiently waiting for me to get done so I can read to him. 

The good news, is I DID get to take my morning shower and get out of my milking clothes! (You can read that as “PJ’s” for non-milkers, because it’s basically a half-step from still being in bed.) … um… 5 minutes ago. 

And all the kids are in bed! … except for the one that J U S T got up to turn on another Paws N Tales… at 10pm.  That one is apparently not in bed… nor asleep. 

So it isn’t all grins and giggles or songs and stories and warm fuzzies and look at this pinterest worthy idea I employed! (In case I had you fooled, SUCKER! oops! Ahem.) But even when the warm fuzzies are missing for a good portion of the day it’s STILL a day of practice closer to being able to deal with days like this with peace and joy and laughter… well, most days find us with those at least part of the time, but I mean a day with those former qualities and NO slipping into grumbling or crabbing or counting anxiously down to bedtime and resenting the mess they made taking their baths before remembering to be grateful that they TOOK them and didn’t even need your help!  Yeah, I tried for a warm fuzzy there, but didn’t quite make it.

Another eon of practice should do it. 

In many ways that matter, though, our ‘ugh’ day was a good day.

It just may take until tomorrow for me to laugh and smile about it.

If you celebrate Christmas for some reason other than Christ’s birth, please forego this post.  It will be meaningless to you and may just make you wonder how silly Christians can be anyway (Truthfully, pretty silly sometimes.  Thankfully, God is big enough to cover all the gaps and flaws we have.)  To you, I hope someday Christmas will be a bigger part of your life than it is this year and that you will know God for who He is and not for the pathetically inaccurate picture you get from His followers sometimes.  The end, and have a wonderful holiday.

To the rest of us…

I want to do this gently.  Because while I could pull Jude’s “CONTEND FOR THE TRUTH” out and paste it on a banner to wave as I charge into every petty controversy from whether Christmas is a pagan holiday to whether King James is the only version worth reading to whether alcohol today is the same as it was in Christ’s time all the while swinging my truth sword as hard as possible, I’m fairly certain from the CONTEXT of that very brief portion of Jude that these examples were not the ‘truths’ he meant for us to contend to the death over. (GASP!  Preposition at the end!  Contend for the truth that this is wretched grammar!)

You may have noticed the obvious attention getting techniques I deployed on the words “Contend for the Truth” and “Context”. 

I think we (me too!) do wave that banner in many instances where, like Israel when they tried to take Canaan on their own power and were utterly defeated, God is simply not on our side.  I mean, we may be right that wine is the only permissible liquid for communion or that our music needs to be more/less hip and our sanctuary more/less red/blue/chartreuse/teal.  But it’s possible to be on right side of the fight, but that you are marching under your own steam and not at all according to God’s directions.  The whole plank/speck thing comes into play here.  Before you correct someone else’s theological misconceptions over whether the pastor should wear a special stole or not, make sure the planks of ‘unloving’ or ‘rebellion’ aren’t obscuring your vision of the route/timing God wants you to take.  So, this is me saying… I hope I’m debating in love.  Sadly, our hearts are less than knowable, so if there’s a bit of pride or frustration in there, try your best to overlook it.

The other word I tried to subtly draw your eyes to was context.  For example: “Before you actually do print out a ‘contend for the truth’ banner and tell everyone I told you to do so, please note the context of the passage and try to divine the author’s ultimate intent.” Or how about “Honestly, the context of the Ezekiel Bread verse makes me think of it as more of a curse than a good addition to my diet.” 

You’ve probably all heard the joke about the guy who was trying to live the Bible literally, so he pointed at random to a passage and found “Judas went and hung himself” which didn’t sound right, pointed again and found “Go and do thou likewise”.   Out of context, verses of the Bible are at best nonsensical and at worst dangerous!

Now that my disclaimers/don’t try this at home notifications are out of the way…

Apparently the new? thing this year (new to me, I don’t remember seeing this… twice in the same evening… and several more times over the course of a few days) is to explain how Jeremiah 10 makes Christmas trees unbiblical at best and anti-Christian at worst.   I can see how, at first glance, this could be misleading:  Here it is and in KJV just in case:

Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.

For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.

They deck it with silver and with gold

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Wow.  The Bible talks about CHRISTMAS TREES!  

Oh wait, there’s more to that portion….

they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne (*this means carried, not birthed for all you heathen Non-KJV people), because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.

This is sounding less and less like a Christmas tree…  And a little further down (what, if you want the full text, you can look it up like I did, consider this the highlights to encourage you to read the rest)

Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.

10 But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king:

Well… now I’m completely lost if I’m thinking Christmas tree… but just a LITTLE further down we find:

11 Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.

And suddenly it all comes together to evidence that the description above is meant to be of IDOLS.  IDOLS made from trees, cut down and polished by hands of humans.  Idols that cannot speak or do either evil or good and are adorned in silver and gold.  Huh.  Not really matching my description of a Christmas tree.  At all. 

Are Christmas trees idols?  Not in my house.  In my house they are symbols.  We don’t worship the tree anymore than Joshua and Israel worshipped the rock they put up in Joshua 24 (Oh. My. Word…. they made a stone idol!??!)

NO.  They did not.  They used a stone as a marker, a symbol.   If you really want to get riled up about idols, check out the snake on a pole voodoo thing Moses pulled.  Oh.  That wasn’t voodoo?  That was a symbol?  Sanctioned by God?  To make a point?  OOOOOOH!!!  Nevertheless, it sounds a great deal more like an idol than the modern Christmas tree does. 

You know what else can be an idol?  The desire to do everything perfectly or at least better and more Biblically than everyone else and seeking out obscure ways to think better of ourselves than we ought.  “I don’t have a Christmas tree… you ‘like the heathen’ Christian you.”  So is the idol of ‘being right’ which I worship at far too often.  Just ask my husband who recently said (this is out of context so no judging him by these words!) Success is achieved when you bring joy to others and quit keeping score.  I quickly informed him that people who don’t like to keep score, probably don’t want to keep score because they are LOSING and went on to impress upon him that he would probably like that definition of success because of the vast (slight? exaggeration) number of pronunciation/definition debates I had been RIGHT on when he was WRONG.  If you didn’t recognize it before, you now have evidence that I’m a gracious sort of person.

Admittedly, it could be that some of the Jeremiah 10 quoters are stepping up to the plate because they want to save their brothers/sisters from error.  There is a lot of that going around: “I just learned that drinking from a plastic cup will kill you, you have to stop immediately!” “If you don’t sign this petition against global warming outhouse gas reductions in the middle east you will regret it later!”  “You shouldn’t let your baby cry it out, he’ll become a serial killer later in life!”  and so on.  And so forth. And to those people who are thus motivated, thank you.  Thank you for caring enough about our souls, happiness, and/or future regret that you are willing to risk awkward silences or weird looks.  No.  that wasn’t sarcasm.  The motive for which you are doing what you do is admirable enough that those of us who disagree with you could stand to be less cranky and more appreciative of the heart behind it.  We could, as it were, not look on the outward appearance which may seem goofy to us, and look instead on the heart behind it.   And I can admire you for being strong enough to stand for your beliefs.  My caution being that anytime you throw something out there whether it be an opinion or a selfie, you’re inviting comment/feedback/disagreement/disapproval.  If your love for us isn’t strong enough to weather those consequences, just don’t.  Bide your time.  For my part, I promise not to stop loving any of you who disagree or disapprove of this post and the opinions therein. 

All that said, I certainly applaud those who are convicted that Christmas trees are not Biblical and thus don’t have a Christmas tree.  In this area at least, they put to shame those of us who know that lying and gossip are sins and continue to do it anyway, or who get their panties in a twist over someone else’s opinion and neglect to do what we know is right because we’re too busy correcting what someone else knows is right because it’s wrong… right fellow cranky Christians?  

 

 

I have the most beautiful book gathering dust on my shelf waiting for me to FINALLY write the review so as to properly shelve it. It has been there for longer than my youngest has been alive. Six or seven months of dust certainly adds up fast. The book is Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick.

Starting with the shallow, I adore the cover. Moving deeper, despite the 6 months that have passed since actually reading it, I can still remember it well enough to tell you what I loved about it. If that doesn’t communicate its value enough on its own, read on. First, it’s about a daughter who loves tinkering with plants as does her father. She wants to make an apple hybrid that is tasty and peels easily, so she follows in her father’s footsteps and after many years of dedication and secret attempts, manages to do so. This is not being done in today’s ‘pursue whatever makes you happy’ atmosphere either, but with onlookers who think tampering with nature is anti-God, that mothers should only ever be spending time on their children.

In fact, in the beginning she HIDES what she’s doing. She wonders often if she shouldn’t be spending less time in the garden and more with her family (though throughout the book it is apparent that she does everything there is to do for her family and that gardening is just another way for her to have stewardship over what God has given her.) The author traces this ‘based on a true story’ novel through her overwhelming desire to create a type of lilac: one with a specific shade and number of petals. Through that main story-line we listen to the scientific method she employs, the dedication of a husband who orders lilacs from oversees, the pain involved in culling the ‘lesser’ of her plants, the determination involved in digging up and preserving them on rafts tied to trees lest the common flooding that destroyed her gardens ruin all her efforts. It highlights her struggle to balance her passion for her work on that front and her passion for her family.

Kirkpatrick highlights how others, whose storylines are carefully woven in, were impacted by what many folks at the time considered a waste of her time and even a blasphemy of what God made. It chronicled how she used her garden to help other children by paying them to help her water and housing them so they were near enough to take lessons or attend a school they wished to go to. I found myself really loving Hulda Klager in all her spunk and dedication. The reality of her story as she dove into an unexplainable depression that nothing seemed to help. How God used her love of gardens, the gentle prodding of her family and a simple seed catalog to coax her from it. I loved feeling her attachment to her children as she struggled with them moving away or suffering losses of their own and her attempts to meet them where they were. It further interested me to find that the author of the book actually has varieties of the very lilac that Hulda did eventually produce.

I was a bit perplexed by the multitude of reviews that said they had a hard time getting into the book. It certainly isn’t an action-packed spy novel or anything, but I felt the author fleshed out a real person in real ways and did a good job of making it interesting. This was a non-stressful, relaxing, yet somehow emotional read that I enjoyed very much and would highly recommend. Not just for the beautiful cover either.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through a blogging program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <[…]> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Love actually...

Two days.

Two short days til our anniversary. I don’t know which one we’re celebrating, but I know who I can ask. That’s one of the many holes the man I married helps fill… his instant number recall. He knows the birth weights/year/lengths of our respective children better than I do.

I could write an excruciatingly long post about the theological implications of marriage… (if I didn’t have 5 children waiting for bedtime… oh wait, that’s me doing the waiting…) or about whether or not the photo I posted is a completely accurate picture of a good marriage because when you marry someone you are signing a contract that says, in essence, that you ARE trapped. You are putting yourself in that person’s life for the rest of yours.

It’s definitely worth looking at it that way from the dating standpoint if only to realize that you need to look at it not as the first in a line of disposable relationship but a never-ending commitment that nothing will shake. I’d like to think that fewer foolish choices and, therefore, fewer broken homes would occur that way. But talking about that kind of kills the romantic bent of the photo, I suppose. Plus it’s probably not PC to refer to a divorced family as broken anymore.

For a brief time I spent 15-30 minutes 3 times a day about a year ago in a break room. Most of that time was spent listening to people comment on their relationships. Girls frustrated that their man of the minute’s main question about the twins she JUST found out she’s carrying was “Does this mean I have to pay MORE child support?” A woman who’d been married to the same man for years, raised a daughter with him but had no esteem or love at all for the man and spoke openly of her disdain. In fact, as soon as she had the cash ready and could sell the house, she said, she was leaving for her sister’s state of residence. He’s staying here. They’ve already discussed the divvying of pets. It was like a foreign country to me. Illustrated again when one of them asked if my ‘incentive’ had shown up properly on my recent paycheck. (Hers hadn’t.) When I explained that I hadn’t looked at my check amount. It was direct deposited and Matt takes care of the finances. Has since a few years after we were married, so I rarely notice what the amount is, but maybe I’d better take a look at that just in case. You’d have thought I had just confessed to keeping explosives stashed in the flue of a wood burning stove. Books being read at that table were put down, bites left untaken. Several alarmed glances were shot. One woman raised her eyebrows and said what everyone else was thinking: You HAVE to keep tabs on where money is going!  You should also have your own bank account that he can’t get into! I have my own and my husband isn’t touching a THING that I bring in from this job!**

Major culture shock, the realization that people married and/or lived with persons they not only couldn’t agree on finances with but also couldn’t trust with ‘their’ money!

Then there are stories of upstanding families who seem to have it all together and they look great… until the relationship seems to spontaneously fall apart. Did they spend alot of time on the paint and window dressings, but had no foundation? Or perhaps the foundation once was there but a crack appeared only to be ignored. It took a few floods and an earthquake, but it’s gone now. As is the life they built together. Baring a major overhaul to the broken parts, anyway.

Lest I sound proud of my marriage: I know that “There, but for the grace of God go I.” Or ‘go we’ as the case may be.

So not proud.  We’re hardly the image of perfection, after all. We certainly blow it on a minute-ly basis most days in some way or another. Just exceedingly grateful that we’ve been graciously given a good foundation. Just grateful for friends and family who I KNOW will speak up if we start taking one another for granted. Just incredibly willing to work and hope and pray towards this tie continuing as it should until death do us part.

So while my version of marriage says that I am, by definition, trapped… I certainly don’t FEEL trapped with you, my Love! You are the jam in my jelly roll. The peanut in my peanut butter! (Hey, I could quote from Song of Solomon if that would be better… 🙂 )

And I WOULD rather be with you than anyone else, Matthew Charles Roberts.

So those of you unmarrieds? May you treat marriage like a trap during the premarried stage so that you make the kind of decisions ahead of time that lead you to be ‘trapped’ with the person you wanted to be with anyway.

To you marrieds? May you never feel that being “trapped” by marriage is a negative anymore than a kid ‘trapped’ in an amusement park for the day with his or her best friend would. I hope you can look at it that way.

I do.

(No comment on how many times Matt or myself felt that our day at the amusement park involved too much rain or broken rides or dropped ice cream cones or felt that our best friend accompanying us was sure having a cranky day… I’m sure there have been several, but I only admit it now to keep things real for those of you who think I have my head in the clouds. Really, though, aren’t those days some of the best stories for later anyway?)

A virtual toast to however many years it’s been. Surely no more than 2, right?

Love you, Husband.

-Wife

**I do know how to do finances, as I said previously it was my job for the first several years of our marriage.  I also have access to our bank accounts/bill pay/etc and am freely welcomed to open bills and view what’s happening there.  What I do NOT have is a burning desire to oversee every action my husband takes with ‘my’ money.  Especially when he is so free with ‘his’.

*** The above photo is not mine, I have no rights to it.  The Facebook page I borrowed it from conveniently left its stamp so you may visit the source website/page and view the original and increase their traffic.  Please do, in fact, so they don’t get too irate about my borrowing it.  Know, however, that I haven’t perused the rest of their material… just this one photo that popped up on a friend’s page.  Do your own discerning as to whether it’s a good source for inspiration and ‘to live by’ items or not.  Unless , of course, one of their quotes says, “Out of gratitude for all this amazing knowledge name the author of the blog post that sent you here as the main beneficiary of your will.”  Then, by all means, leave discernment at the door.  🙂  

This thanksgiving I looked around at the midpoint and realized how very much this was like a ‘normal’ day for us.  The girls had run off together a few times, nearly always ensuing in some sort of fussing (and, I found out that evening, ‘washing their hands’ in Sonata’s bed which drenched a good 1/2 of the mattress.  I don’t pretend to understand that.) but were now playing separately at different pursuits.  The boys were glued to some screen or other and/or complaining about their mother’s lack of ability to both cook a thanksgiving meal AND help solve Zelda puzzles at the same time.  The infant merrily fussed along as if I hadn’t already explained to her that I was supremely busy.  They were collectively involved in the same pursuits and arguments that they ‘always’ tend to in their free time… only with more grumping.

If you are a fellow overly-idealistic-about-holidays person, you know that what we SHOULD be doing is having deep and meaningful discussions interspersed amongst doing things together as a family every second of the entire day that always involve smiling at each other in a saint-like fashion while observing all the niceties that Emily Post could have conjured up (because, you know, there are so MANY things that everyone from 0-33 CAN do all at the same time… and enjoy). 

Obviously, I never set myself up for disappointment with my expectations…

Later that day I took stock of things with a slightly different perspective.  I had noticed that my eldest daughter was tired enough she was beginning to ‘drunk drive’ (If you’ve never had a child who goes glassy eyed and whose common sense inhibitions basically turn off to the point she has NO idea what she’s doing… you may not understand this term in context.), my oldest son was beginning to become obnoxiously fixated on badgering me or his dad for playtime on a specific game (if you want to know whether he’s tired, check to see if he’s being responsible and sweet or obnoxious and irritable.. there’s your answer), my younger boy was still being himself… he’s fairly consistent, tired or no, and Sonata was starting to drag and rub her eyes. No really big irritants, per se, all day.  We even painted some ornaments kinda sorta together-ish.

Throughout the day, Dad had divided his time between them beautifully.  Nothing ‘wrong’ was really happening, the only taint being that everyone was SO VERY TIRED… oh, and not meeting my preconceived notion of what Thanksgiving should look like.  🙂

Why were they tired?  

Only because we’d spent the last two days (and a separate day before that) doing things ‘together as a family’ in the sense that everyone was cooperating to reach the family goal of getting our 70ish chickens processed.  (Every time we counted, there were two more than we thought… we have always suspected that they multiply on us!) 

And you know what?  We did have some deep and meaningful discussions while that work was being accomplished.  And while we may not have always been smiling like the metaphoric saints… I had a 3 and new 5 year old who ‘saintfully’ played together either WHILE entertaining an infant to the best of their abilities or while obediently being quieter and more adherent to the “Thou shalt not play in the living room where the baby is sleeping, nor shalt thou make noises that might awaken the baby whilst she is sleeping” commandment than they are when I’m inside to monitor it.  I had a near 7 and 8 year old who basically put in a cheerful 10 hour work day (with breaks) the first day with steadily decreasing enthusiasm and presence the following two (understandably…)

When their help wasn’t required outside, I had no cause to stop what I was doing to solve sibling issues or ‘help’ one of the little kids until Caela was ready to eat or sleep… she was pitching in by being easy to care for.  And why wasn’t I interrupted more often? Because everyone pitched in as cheerfully inside as when they were outside helping. 

I guess in light of all that, our Thanksgiving can be a less formal (read: less demanding) and maybe even with a less than ideal amount of grumping/arguing and maybe even serve as a break from coordinated family activity. 

Since we’re all done with our necessary fall ‘big labor’ days, though, I can begin working on my idealistic expectations for Christmas, right?    

Crisis management

or mismanagement depending on which of the story’s participants you are speaking of…

So, I was keeping my cool (mostly) about the lack of significant progress on the housekeeping front by telling myself that watching my daughter write and act in a play and making errands take longer by not only inviting little ones to come but also allowing them to drive the cart and generally seeing and enjoying the kids instead of pushing us all through the day to get things done was worth it

AND BESIDES (this is the important joy-killing part, thus the big, bold letters),

I’d have after they were in bed to play ‘catch up’.

Then Sonata wasn’t in bed on time

and STILL wasn’t asleep when I went in to lay Asa down.

Any other kid combo of two at a time would probably work, but not these two.

My husband quickly ascertained that I was blowing this schedule hiccup all out of proportion, and I mean this kind

“THE EARTH WILL FALL OFF ITS AXIS AND GET SUCKED INTO THE NEAREST BLACK HOLE IF I DON’T GET TO FOLD LAUNDRY WHEN I PLANNED TO!!”

of ‘out of proportion’

Then he calmly stated in an inquiring tone “If I sit in there with them, will that solve the problem?” and proceeded to sit with them for the 10 whole minutes it took before they were both out so I could get down to the much delayed business.

My hero!

No, not for sitting with the kids for 10 minutes

…though being great at little things is often the best mark of heroes, isn’t it?…

but for realizing that my sanity was in peril over foolish things and biting his tongue long enough for me to realize I was being an idiot … all by myself.

And now the infant is nearly asleep (right on schedule!) and it’s time to finish dishes and study a bit more for Sunday School and a few other things I kept sliding back on my mental to do list as things like “Play with the baby” and “Help Sonata color” and “Help the boys figure out how to get past this whatever things in Zelda” crowded in.

Uh-oh… infant quit looking drowsy and started grinning and cooing at me instead!!!  This means another 15 minutes of infant centered time before she’s out!  Is Earth still firmly on its axis?!?!

Oh good.

Whew!

3 Year Old Wedding Woes

Sonata had a great deal to say this evening about the weighty topic of marriage.

She started off talking about ‘when I marry a boy that isn’t Asa’.  I explained that she wasn’t going to marry a boy, she was going to hold out for a man and would thusly not be married until she was at least 26.  {Don’t freak out, it’s an arbitrary number designed to impress upon them that it will be a VERY LONG TIME before they even get to THINK about males and marrying in the same thought pattern… obviously this isn’t working out so well* since my 3 year old is already discussing the following with me.}

She didn’t ponder this for any amount of time, merely shot back, “I think I’ll get married when I’m 6.”

Me:  “No.  26.”

Her: “I think 7 would be better.”

Me: “No. THIRTY-six.”

{insert lengthy age debate here…}

Her: “But 26 is a long time and I don’t even know WHO I’m going to marry!” (this said with all the tragedy of a Romeo finding a collapsed Juliet)

Me: “Don’t worry.  God knows.”

Her: “Can I marry Daddy?”

Me: “When you marry someone you belong to them forever… you already belong to Daddy forever.”  {and daddy’s already married to ME …but it didn’t seem necessary to start that line of thought yet… besides, this is what we told her when she decided she would marry Asa.  They are already each other’s brother/sister forever.}

Her: “But WHO am I going to MARRY?”

Me: “Don’t worry.  When you’re 26 we’ll help you figure that out, okay?”

At some point thereafter she said something strange enough that segued into my asking “Do you even know what marriage is?”

Her: “Yes, it’s being delightful and happyful with each other!”**

Me: {snicker} “Well, that’s more or less true.  It’s when you leave daddy and I, this family, and go live with someone new to start a new family.”

Her: {after a long pause to digest this information… since she’s been having issues with me leaving to SHOP without her and is giving her father approximately 10 minutes of hugs before he can walk out the door) “I will stay with you and daddy a long time, though, right?” 

Me: {why didn’t I START with that? We could have avoided the whole ‘when’ and ‘who’ issues?!?!?!}  “You bet, kid.  Until you are at least 26.”

________________________

*It could be that her avid interest has been sparked by my older daughter’s ‘marriage’ to her good friend this summer and subsequent discussions of saving her kisses until she is a grown up and ABSOLUTELY sure (she’s already very sure, but not ABSOLUTELY sure regarding who she is going to marry) that he’s the man she will be with forever.

**I’d like to think that both of them are excited about being married because Matt and I make it look like so much fun, but it probably has more to do with their obsession with the Disney Princesses and all those happily ever afters.