Monday, July 31, 2017

A New Bookcase

I was thinking about how it would be nice to have another bookcase, and my neighbor called today.  "Do you want a bookcase? I'll send a photo."  As soon as I saw it I said YES!!  

She even brought it down the hill to me. 

This is the kicker: it's a duplicate of the bookcase I bought for Finn's room last year! I actually paid real money for that one; today's bookcase was free. But Finn's bookcase was in better condition.

This one needs a fresh coat of paint; otherwise, it's fine. I was sorry that someone had cut holes in the back, but what can you do?! Here it is, in a temporary spot in front of another small bookcase.....

Experience has taught me that these bookcases hold a lot of books.  Although I'd love to put it in Annie's room, we can't reconfigure her space, so I think it'll live in our schoolroom for now.  That's where it is most needed anyhow!  I am hoping I'll have enough self-discipline to get that fresh coat of paint ASAP, because the urge to go ahead and put books on it is so strong.  Something about an empty bookcase just begs for reloading.

(Also, Alice approves.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

In the Sewing Room this Midsummer

A field report from the wilds of the sewing room:

*I'm almost done with my chicken apron.  (As in, straps are left.)  It is ankle-length.  It is back-wrapping. It is so fun.

*Last weekend Annie asked me to make a colonial mob cap for her, and I was happy to oblige.  She has also asked me to make one for her best friend!

*Annie and I are designing a dress for her based on something she saw in a catalog.  It's a princess dress.  We're going to make a regular sundress, but then create a Very Fancy Jacket to wear over the dress that transforms it into "princess."  I think I start on this tomorrow.

*I've started, but not quite finished, cutting out an Alabama Chanin stencil.

*Knitting a dishcloth--it's my portable project.

*In spare bits of time, I'm cutting out pieces for a quilt.

When I'm not in the sewing room (and I'm usually not, alas), I've been reading, writing (every morning, with coffee, before the children rise), swimming, helping with Vacation Bible School, and giving extra attention to the cats, the dog, and the roses.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Brave Nothing

"Consider the billboard as any spritz of noise that obtrudes between the mind and the sky: 'cheap rates,' 'you can be sexy too,' 'billions and billions served.' The itch to be what is called 'important' functions as a billboard, as does the itch to be 'doing something productive' or to be playing a video game or to be sitting in front of a television.  Fill the visual field with neon lights.  Smog is useful, too: I mean both the fumes that come from millions of automobiles, and the smoky darkness of lust.  A child that has been blared at and distracted all his life will never be able to do the brave nothing of beholding the sky. He will not be able to ask, with the Psalmist--

'When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?'

He will find the psalm itself too dull. He will want to change the channel."

--Anthony Esolen, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Hundred Freedoms

"Lou hoped scandalously to live her own life....[she] had long since cut out fashion and all radio but the Red Sox.  In the past few years she had let go her ties to people she did not like, to ironing, to dining out in town, and to buying not necessary and that themselves needed care.  She ignored whatever did not interest her.  With those blows she opened her days like a pinata. A hundred freedoms fell on her.  She hitched free years to her lifespan like a kite tail.  Everyone envied her the time she had, not noticing that they had equal time."

                    --Annie Dillard, The Maytrees

Although I don't think I will ever cut out fashion, ironing, or dining out in town, I can think of a few things that I *can* cut out.  To open my days like a pinata.....

Monday, July 17, 2017

Life without Lists: Waiting Open-Endedly

For the past two weeks or so, I've been pondering the way I run my life.  And in this period I've not made my daily to-do list.   For the first time in 25 years, I'm living a list-less (ha!) life.  

We still navigate through morning chores based on my morning chores chart.  I still refer to the calendar every day to make sure we don't miss an appointment or an obligation.  But I'm not making an ambitious daily to-do list; instead, I've been reading about time, thinking about paradigm shifts, and pondering what it looks like to plan a day to include all the important bits and lots of room for margin. 

Instead of making a daily list that I jot down each evening or morning, I have created a rubric of sorts.  I'm calling it my scaffolding: an essential structure upon which to build the day. I will write more about that sometime; for now, I'm living it out to see how it goes. 

In the meantime, I'm collecting quotes about time.  I will share some of them in the coming weeks. Here is one I've had on my refrigerator for over a year, but it hasn't come to full fruition in my spirit until recently. 

"To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is fast beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to His love and not according to our fear.  The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control."

--Henri Nouwen (emphasis mine)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Acting Camp Survival Guide

Finn has finished another week of acting camp, and I confess that I was barely hanging on by a thread by the time Friday rolled around.  Acting camp week means that every day my children have to be dressed, fed, and out of the house by 8:15 so we can get to the city in time for the 9:00 start time.  Then Annie and I stay in the city (what's the point of driving so far home?) until noon, when acting camp ends.

For next year, I'll be sure to:

*make breakfast foods on Sunday.  We ran out of baked oatmeal mid-week and somehow I didn't have the wherewithall to make another batch. Please!  That won't happen again. 

*put Annie to bed earlier.  Good luck, because the fireflies are a huge draw here around 9pm, but Annie needs her rest. 

*put Polly to bed earlier. Enough said.

*make a lunch each night for the next day. By the time camp is over, we're all *so* hungry, even though Finn has had a packed snack, Annie has had a snack, and I've had a latte.  Driving home felt torturous so I think we dined out THREE times for lunch.  Granted, the last time was at the fabulous Indian restaurant with Mr. Polly, because he took the day off of work to watch the acting showcase, but still. 

*be sure all the laundry is washed *before* camp starts.  Because otherwise the laundry lags. 

Basically?  Take care of sleep, food, and clothes.  This is common sense, but somehow it all escaped me this summer. The good news is that acting camp went great, Finn did wonderfully in the showcase, and Annie and I had grand hours together getting our toenails painted, shopping at the delicious little downtown shops, walking around town, and generally enjoying each other's company.  So the chaos was worth it!  

But I'm glad it's done.

Friday, July 7, 2017

How Do You Organize Your Life?

I'm not asking a rhetorical question here; I'm asking because I'm genuinely interested in how other people Manage Life.

When Annie was a tiny thing, I set goals for each season or quarter, primarily to keep my focus.  Now that she's older and things are easier from the parenting perspective, I've been keeping very detailed monthly, weekly, and daily lists of what I need and want to accomplish--from creative projects to homeschooling, home projects and outings, et cetera.  I generally plan at least a month in advance and then have a long to-do list every day. I don't usually cross *everything* off the list, but I tackle most things.

For the past two days I decided not to make a daily list. There was no reason; it just seemed like after our houseguests left and summer started to settle in around us, I didn't feel like constantly referring to my written page.

And during this list-quiet time I've been wondering: do I plan too much?  Am I over-complicating my life with all these lists and plans? Am I sticking so closely to my pre-conceived list that I'm not attentive and responsive enough to more immediate needs?

(Yes. This is me, taking a Sunday nap on the sofa of my father's mountainhouse, with my sister's dog on me, and my father watching football.  I call this "Sundaying!" Finn took this photo.)

Summer seems like a good time to simplify and reconsider.  The only schoolwork we're consistently doing is math (today we did do artist study, history, and poetry--but just for fun, because I felt like it).

I'm also staring down a Big Birthday in a few months.  The passage of time makes me think about the value of time, and how I use my time.

A paper calendar on the fridge, a Moleskine weekly planner, a typed to-do project list, a daily notebook list. A homeschool binder, a prayer journal, a home management binder, the typed-and-organized-by-aisle grocery list on the side of the fridge, a Bible study binder, a creative projects journal (that's not going anywhere!) it too much?

(This cake was too much.  And too delicious.)

Should life be a little simpler, maybe, than I'm making it?

Some people don't even make lists, ever.  And they are completely undisturbed by this--

(Mr. P, contemplating his peaceful life.  Which never involves lists.)

whereas I fear a life without lists. I fear feeling tetherless, tossed about on a sea of whim; I'm too Type A for that life.  And yet am I choosing the good portion?  Or am I just pushing my own agenda? Am I making this more complex than it needs to be?  

So really: how do you organize your life? 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


My last post on hospitality? I've been practicing it for the past week!  

As of yesterday afternoon, our houseguests are gone and I spent today recovering; that is, laundering the sheets, examining the pantry, vacuuming the floors, doing math with Finn, and slowly re-orienting myself back into Normal Life.

Last Friday Finn had oral surgery, and it went well.  In fact, he never asked for pain medicine and he was up and running around Friday evening!  We are grateful for a smooth surgery.  The best bit was in the car on the way home; Finn, who had never experienced numbness before, grunted through his gauze, "I can feel my lip, but my lip can't feel me."

Isn't that the perfect description of numbness?!  Cracked me up.

In addition to hosting and oral surgery, our summer of late has been about ice cream (making, buying, eating), gardening (weeding, planting, deadheading, transplanting), embroidering (two words: singing chicken), and reading (Narnia!).