Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What Gets Passed Along

"A mother can read all the child-rearing books and can subscribe to any theory of parenting, but what gets passed along to her children is something far more intimate and mysterious than anything contained therein.  What gets passed along is her character, and it enters into her kids as surely and as inexorably as water flows from a fuller vessel into a less-full one."
                                   --Laurence Shames

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tidbits from the Week

Finn is attending a morning camp in the city every day this week, which means we are out of the house by 8:10 am.  Both yesterday afternoon and this afternoon were busy, so I'm feeling quite pressed.  We are not used to keeping this pace, and I'm grateful that we only have to keep it for two weeks (next week we have a Vacation Bible School to attend each morning in the city!). 

So I'm going to "away" from the blog for a while, but I leave with a few tidibts:

*I have finally reached the point where I have an Alabama Chanin jersey dress option for nearly every day of the "work" week.  By the end of the summer, I hope to have a dress for every day of the entire week!  Stay tuned.

*During a busy week, we sure miss the swimming pool.

*And the garden.

*After the Vacation Bible School of next week I will get to settle into a real "summer routine," and I'm eagerly mapping out what that will look like.  It definitely will NOT look like waking my children up at 7:30 each day and leaving the house forty minutes later, fortunately!  

*Annie and I are enjoying "girl time" in the city each morning after we drop Finn off.  So far we've watched trains, visited the Fancy Hotel, gotten coffee & scones (twice), explored a new playground, ridden the trolley, enjoyed the view from the top of a tall building, and watched many tropical fish in an aquarium.  Annie is a fun little buddy and so sweet. 

*It's hot. And so humid.  I am not complaining....or am I?  In any case, I have to say my lightweight jersey clothing is perfect in the face of all the city heat!

*Mr. Polly and Finn are building a chicken coop in their spare time!  It is filling the garage with a wonderful pine scent. I love it. Their goal: hens by July.  This may be ambitious. But my husband is notoriously prone to success!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Whispers of Eternity

"The grief that chanced a-yesterday has taught the soul to listen
For whispers of eternity in all the winds that pass."
--Katherine Lee Bates

True grief does teach the soul to listen.  Not long ago my hairdresser's beloved brother committed suicide.  It was absolutely devastating.  But the first time I got a haircut after this happened, my hairdresser was telling me all sorts of stories about things that had happened in the weeks since his brother's death, from an angry encounter on a street that turned into a hug with a total stranger (!) to seeing a shadow of a huge cross on his lawn where there had never been a shadow before....and all sorts of other stories in between. It was clear that his soul was listening for those whispers of eternity, and that he was receiving them.  What a gift!  I was so happy for him. He asked me if I'd ever experienced anything like that. 

Well, how much time do you have??

Yes.  After my mother's death at the age of 52 (I was 23) I was poured down with grace after grace for months and months.  I wasn't really a believer when she died--I'd been raised in the church, and was nominally Christian (after having dabbled in Buddhism in college), but considered myself wise and savvy and smart (having spent four years studying philosophy in college), and wise, savvy, smart, modern people clearly held religion at arms' length!  Her death stripped me of this and taught me to listen for those whispers of eternity.

It also happened after my miscarriage three summers ago.  (Here is one example.) My eyes were opened during that time to so many strange "coincidences" and so much grace. I felt that God had orchestrated every detail of it because He knew that I would be in so much pain. 

Grief can change the course of our lives, make us more open to seeing with our spiritual eyes instead of with these faulty human eyes. Our vision as humans is myopic.  But our spiritual vision changes the landscape completely. It teaches our souls to listen, and that is a blessing. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

In Christ Alone

One of my family's all-time favorite songs is "In Christ Alone," which we sometimes sing at church, and often listen to at home.

This morning I saw a link to this version of the song, which was performed by Christina Grimmie. I didn't know who she was before last week. She was an up-and-coming singer who was murdered after a concert last Friday.

With that singular tragedy preceding the enormous tragedy in Orlando only a day later, the song resonates with and ministers to me, and perhaps if you are suffering, it will minister to you, too.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
this is the power of Christ in me, 
from life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.

No power of hell, no scheme of man,
can ever pluck me from His Hand,
till he returns, or calls me home,
here in the power of Christ I stand.

(There are lots of versions of the song, but this is the one my husband likes to play for us! I love Christina Grimmie's version as well.)

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Thinking about Tragedy

Three things help me when horror happens.

First, look for the heroes, because every terrible story or tragedy has a hero, someone who shines virtue (courage, charity, sacrifice, mercy) into the dark place. 

Second, combat the darkness and the helplessness by doing important work: love the person right in front of you, right now.  Don't despair about all the evil people we cannot control, or spend too much time in the vortex of news and debate.  Focus on the face closest to you, see its dignity, and love it.  Do that every day.  (Love God. Love others.)

Third, John 1:5: the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

And it never will. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Finn Turned Nine!

A junk food breakfast al fresco, a day at the pool (Finn and Mr. Polly christened the water slide), pizza for dinner, Finn's art show, and delicious cake and gifts at the end of the day. 

Finn, making a splash--

Mr. Polly, also splashing.

Birthday gifts included a rubik's cube, David Macaulay's book on ships, and pool, the promise of a chicken coop, which has been Finn's sole desire the past couple of months.  He wants to raise chickens!

Finn then:

and now:

Happy birthday to my shaggy-haired, artistic, book-addicted, sensitive, clever, helpful, ship-loving, tender-hearted, absent-minded, witty, encylopedia-reading son. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

The End-of-the-Year Checklist

It struck me last week that instead of picking a "school's out" date, we can use a different method to determine when we're done for the year.  I assessed the remainder of the work that I felt we should finish and made a checklist with each page/chapter/lesson (depending on the subject) typed into a small table.  This checklist fits on one page, and will allow Finn to see how much he has left to do before school has ended.  We originally planned to end on June 17, but now Finn has the freedom to do as much as he wants and finish ahead of time--which I suggest, because otherwise he'll have to take schoolwork on his road trip next week!

A good friend of mine who was homeschooled (and who doesn't school by date, but by when they're done with their books) has noted that when she went to college she was amazed at how the students who had attended school seemed to procrastinate their work, dragging things out until the bitter end, whereas she was used to just getting it done and getting on with her life.  I think this is a good trait to cultivate! 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Modern Education and a Man of Straw

"It must be remembered that in Mark's mind hardly one rag of noble thought, either Christian or Pagan, had a secure lodging.  His education had been neither scientific nor classical--merely "Modern." The severities both of abstraction and of high human tradition had passed him by: and he had neither peasant shrewdness nor aristocratic honour to help him. He was a man of straw, a glib examinee in subjects that require no exact knowledge (he had always done well on Essays and General Papers) and the first hint of a real threat to his bodily life knocked him sprawling."

                                 --That Hideous Strength (CS Lewis)

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Inaugural Pool Trip

Yesterday was our first day at the pool.  We got breakfast and chores out of the way quickly and were settled down at the table doing school by 9:15.....a veritable record. (Usually we start between 9:30-10:00.) Motivation!

(Yes, those are daylilies....not typically a flower I put inside. But Annie decided to pick some to place on the table for dinner Wednesday night. It's fun to watch them open and close!)

Within an hour all seatwork was finished and we hustled out for the reward of a day at the pool. 

And now I'm thinking of new, creative foods to take to the pool, because my children eat and eat and eat when we're there.  Every rest break  = food.  I think they're just burning so many calories that they need a constant stream of nutrition, because these are children who rarely ever snack!  Yesterday I felt confident that I'd over-packed--I took turkey, cheese, nectarines, bananas, strawberries, cashews, pistachios, whole wheat crackers, a few homemade oatmeal cookies someone brought us the day before, and Larabars, and it was all gone, destroyed, by the time we left. (And I didn't eat anything but the fruit, because I packed my own salad.) 

Help!! They're like a plague of locusts!!


Last weekend my husband suggested that he and the children camp out in our tent in the backyard.  He and Finn had been camping before, but this was Annie's first "night-in-a-tent" experience.  When I left them outside after dark, they were eating junky food, playing Skip-Bo, and had a pile of books to read around the lantern together.  I went inside and sewed, and could hear their giggles.  

The next morning I crept to the back door and opened it, and could see movement within the tent. Then I heard Finn say to Annie "I WILL CHASE YOU AROUND DADDY!"  Sure enough, poor Mr. Polly was just trying to get a little more rest, and the children were chasing each other (via crawling, not running) around him.   

They had so much fun! And so did I: almost finished with Annie's dress *and* with my latest C.S. Lewis book.  We were all happy campers.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Clean Garage

On Memorial Day my husband and I spent all day cleaning out the pit of despair garage. 

The garage is a unique area in our house because it's the only one I can't actually organize by myself.  It doubles as a workroom for my husband's mad scientist projects (he's making a CNC router from scratch from his own design, for instance) and the tool situation is staggering.  I don't know what the majority of tools are, where they should go, or whether to purge them. So because we were both home together on Monday, with no other obligations, I suggested we tackle the garage.  

The work went quickly--but we still worked from around 10-11 am until 6pm! I had to take two Advil that night because I was so sore.  But the garage is in great shape.  As I was finishing up, I kept thinking "I have more to move back in here" and finally I didn't have more to move back in....the garage was really cleared-out, cleaned-up, and tidy!

I'm glad because messy spaces cause me anxiety--especially spaces I can't clean up by myself. So whenever I went into the garage--to take the recycling, to feed the dog, to get something out of the freezer, to get my gardening tools--the anxiety-o-meter within would ramp up a few notches.  Not anymore.

(And I will say this: now that my children are a little older, this type of work is easier than ever.  I remember eras when I couldn't get more than 30 minutes of work done without needing to pick up a baby or toddler, give them fresh entertainment, put them down for a nap, etc.  Annie and Finn spent all day yesterday playing outside, riding bikes, blowing bubbles with homemade bubble solution, etc. So if you have tiny children and a disorganized garage, take heart! It will get easier.) 
We did not thoroughly organize my husband's tools.  We did group them roughly by type and put them in specific spots, and I plan to work with him to organize everything soon....right down to printing labels.  As we were sweeping and finishing on Monday, my husband turned to me and said "you know, you're just really, really good at this."  He told me several times how much he could not do it by himself and really appreciated my help.  I think this is the difference between his visual-spatial-engineering-math-genius brain and my more linear, sequential brain.  Anyhow, I do love to organize and was glad to help him.  

Now the challenge: keeping it this way.  Will let you know how that goes......