{tight} strings

During the hustle and bustle of a couple weeks ago, I made this carelessly framed, but thoughtfully taken photograph of a new phase in our life.

Ava was invited to a birthday party of a little friend from church.  It was titled, "a non-sleeping slumber party". Cute, right?

I was looking forward to taking her and staying to watch the party. But, as circumstances changed that weekend, I had to decide if I'd rather have her  miss the party or get a ride with a friend.

I was really sad to miss the party, and it felt so strange to have a friend come pick up my baby and take her to a party, but that's the choice I opted for.

The girls were asked to wear pajamas, and bring a pillow, sleeping bag or other sleeping accessories. Ava opted for the pajamas and her peacock...and a large gift bag!

When the time came for her to leave, I helped her get buckled in and kissed her. It felt like something ripping away as the van pulled out of my driveway.

 She returned safely a couple hours later, all smiles, rosy cheeks and excitement spilling over. 
All was well...

As a home educating parent, I am so used to seeing everything my kids do. I take them to their classes and field trips and teach them here. There's little they do or engage in that I'm not present for. This is partly by default, but partly by design. But that's getting into another issue for another post!

The point is, as hard as it may be, I think it's a good thing (for us homeschoolers who are perpetually with our children) to allow (on a carefully chosen, carefully timed basis) our precious children time away from us to experience the world and form opinions on their own.

What about you? Are you a home educator who is with her kids 24/7? Do you allow your children to have play dates at other houses?



SEVEN this month!

For me, they're always my "babies" till they're five
There's something that happens when they turn five
and I can see the older child in them emerging

Benji's older child is coming more slowly than Alec's did
But he wears SEVEN well...

Right now, he

 loves Legos...just a tiny bit (Ha!)
totally loves both his big brother
and his little sister

is only casually interested in the new puppy
is more than casually interested in whales

began to read by himself
(rewarding fruit for momma for all my home education efforts!)

tested positive for the first time on grass-fed, raw cow's milk
(more on this here and here and here)

still gives me hugs and says "I love you Mommy" all day
is developing into his own personality instead of just a shadow of Alec
...it's fun to watch!

continues to be fascinated and enjoy all things food related,
despite his allergies
(I've been wondering for quite some time where this passion will go)

thanks Jesus for "the angels" every day when we pray
still loves to snuggle

We thank Jesus for you, Boo Bear!
Happy SEVENth birthday, Benji!


just {wondering}...

if anyone else feels this way...

At the end of the day I'm usually exhausted (except for right now, it's nearly 11pm and I'm still up blogging!) If I've managed to cook dinner, and sit down to eat it with my family, the tiredness hits me full on. I suddenly feel like I have cement blocks in the back pockets of my jeans keeping me in my chair (or maybe that was the brownie I snacked on earlier! Ha!)

After the plates are emptied and bellies filled, everyone runs off to play. Husband on the computer, kids upstairs with toys. Then there I sit. At a crumb covered table staring at dirty dishes and the remains of a hurriedly cooked meal. Sometimes they remember to take their plate to the sink, and sometimes I remember to call them back to do it.

Most of the time, though, I just sit there in a daze, those cement blocks getting heavier and heavier, along with my eyelids. When I finally pry myself off of the chair and stagger over to the sink, I realize that I'm completely and utterly alone. For the first time. All day.

At first I"m elated. Ya-hoo! Me time, finally. Then I realize, Hey! Wait a minute, I"m alone! I cooked and cleaned all day and fed them a million times and now I'm alone and they're off having a good time!

Then the fight in my head begins:

Dang it, I want help!
 But they're playing so nicely I"ll leave them alone.
No, they really should come back and bring their plates to the sink.
Wait, where's Marvin?
Do I hear the TV on?
WHAAAT? Is he just lounging on the couch watching TV while I slave away here in the kitchen?
Didn't he eat the food I cooked? What gives him the right to not help?
But... he's probably tired...he has been at work all day...
I shouldn't say anything, I don't want to be the nagging wife
but Dang it! I want help!
If I don't speak up I'll just be the victim and bitterness will take root
 But wait, I should be grateful that he even has a job and that I even have a kitchen to cook in and food to cook in it and a sink to wash those dishes in, I could be washing dishes in the Nile, 
for heaven's sake!

 So...I end up doing the dishes and clean up alone, trying really hard to be thankful, but still fuming inside about this domestic injustice that I"m forced to undergo

Has anyone else been there done that?
How do you cope?



We all know the old saying, "It's like apples and oranges". It's meant to remind us to be mindful of what we compare. But, despite their apparent differences...they are both fruits, right? And both round (ish)...and both grow on trees, and both have seeds inside, skin on the outside. I'll stop there.

The point is, despite the negative connotations of comparison, or more specifically, keeping up with the you-know-who's, there is something profoundly healthy in the apples and oranges query. How would we know the difference between the two if we didn't hold them side by side and have a good look? How would we know which tasted better to us if we didn't break them open and sample what's inside? We might miss out on something tasty if we ran the other way  because we didn't want to compare which suited us better.

I was inspired to this notion by a recent visit with a friend of mine. She's also a home educating parent, and has children similar ages to mine. She had mentioned that she teaches her two youngest a Montessori-based preschool lesson for a couple hours each morning while her two oldest do independent school work. I was intrigued by the notion of separate dedicated learning times for the youngest, and have always loved the Montessori philosophy.

In our exchange of emails to set up a "school date" where I could come observe what she was doing, the issue of comparison reared it's ugly head. "Now, remember" she kindly admonished, "my parents helped us pay for a lot of our supplies and we've worked for quite a while getting all this set up".

When I arrived at her house several mornings later, I was slightly in awe of her well-appointed home classroom. But I assured her that even though I was comparing, it was for seemingly different reasons than most. I use comparison as a learning tool, and don't allow it to feed feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

I think so many times, we allow the gift of contrast, of difference in similarity to overwhelm our senses. We forget that being with people who are like us but are walking through their lives differently is a delightful opportunity to experience something new! We need to rejoice in seeing a familiar challenge conquered in an unfamiliar way.

I soaked up all I could that morning. No feelings of guilt, of "Oh, I should be doing better" or "Oh, my kids should be learning this too". Just clear-headed evaluation. We do it this way, she does it that way. Our way needs a little tweaking, is there anything she is doing that would enhance what we already have? Or sometimes, when I'm comparing to learn, I might even say to myself, "Oh my goodness! I"m sure glad we're NOT doing that! I like our way so much better!"

Comparing apples to oranges for the right reasons bears fruit. The delicious, juice-down-your-chin fruit of knowledge and self-discovery! I'm thankful to my friend for sharing her morning, her heart, and for giving me the opportunity to realize what a powerful thing comparison can be.

What about you? Does the word comparison make you shiver and crawl further into your shell? Or does it make you strain with anticipation to see what you'll learn next?


a moment

sounds muffled

 patio chairs sit askew

 chilly white cushions host a ghostly party


shadows soft

 crunching sound of a salty road

puppy moves, a black silhouette

footprints crisp

sky dark velvet


but not

a moment quiet to breathe

nose grows cold

fingers tingle

 wiggling damp fur in my arms

I head slowly back to the warm


This {morning}


giving baths to 3

hosting two overnight guests

cooking eggs, pancakes, toast

serving 4 plus a puppy

wiping toast crumbs off the black counter top

taking the puppy out for the third time

cleaning up shredded newspapers

phone calls to the parents of the overnight guests

finally eating my breakfast right before I fix lunch

visiting with a grandparent

making plans for this afternoon

mediating a quarrel

mediating another quarrel

and another one...

getting Ava ready to go to a birthday party (in her pajamas!)

confiscating markers

trimming nails

finding shoes

{on my mind}

missing Alec while he's at a sleepover

wondering if my friend is still pregnant

wishing I was working out instead of cleaning the kitchen

thinking about how good I've felt the past two days not eating any grain

hoping Marvin will get home early from work so we can have some family time

wondering if God will give us another baby

telling myself that winter really is a beautiful time of year

remembering that I need to take my Project 365 picture for the day

reciting our memory verse for the week in my head when I'm tempted to complain

remembering I need to mail out birthday invitations

can't believe Benji is turning 7 already!

sad as a friend picks Ava up to take her to the party...my little girl is so grown up!

thanking God for so many blessings, 
sometimes coming in the form of hard work and opportunities to be joyful always!


puppy {love}

we couldn't stand being without a dog
we did something about it!

Ruger joined our family on Friday night
nighttime is NOT an ideal time to pick up a puppy
but we made it work

he is a 9 week old German Shepherd
he's very calm
and is learning fast

I can't wait till the potty-training phase is over!
winter is not a friendly season to be dashing outside every 15 minutes
with a wiggly puppy

I miss Ani terribly still
Ruger doesn't bark at outside noises yet
but barked at Ava when she came sneaking downstairs yesterday

He's a sweetie though...
and "talks" when we pick him up to snuggle

my dad teases that if we pick him up enough
our arms will get so strong that when he's full grown 90 pounds
we'll still be able to lift him!
I say we DON"T want a 90 pound lap dog!

the trainer might come next week to remind us what to do with this blank canvas of a puppy
I hope I can remember everything she tells me!



Monday night we said goodbye to our precious companion, Ani. 

We had gotten her as a puppy right before I found out I was pregnant with Alec. Correctly bred German Shepherds are known for their loyalty and protective nature. She was and she fit our family perfectly.

She was gentle and motherly towards the children, welcoming each new baby as if it was her own. She would run in the backyard with them, and would instinctively "herd" them, too!

She slept upstairs in the boy's room, she was my ears when I was in the back of the house and couldn't hear the door, she kept door-to-door salesmen in their place, she laid at my feet if I stayed up late working on the computer. She cleaned up our food messes on the floor, reminded us to keep the trash can emptied and put away, chased critters out of our garden, and received lots of lovin'.

We had noticed her slowing down over the past couple months, but she was not sick or in pain at all, just slower and sleepier. Monday evening we heard the back door bang and sent Alec to let her outside. He found her collapsed on the floor, unable to move. She lifted her head apologetically when I came, but still did not rise.

We moved her to the kitchen on a comfortable pad and called my parents and Marvin's mom, all of whom were tremendously fond of Ani. She lifted her head once when each of them came in, and then did not move again.

We all sat around her for about another 30 minutes and petted her and soothed her as she passed away. It was the absolute best way to lose a pet. No sickness, no pain, just peacefulness and care from us.

The kids cried buckets while we buried her next to our other dog and cat.

The next day was dreadful. The house seemed so empty and quiet, despite my three children. Ava cried for Ani on and off throughout the day, and the boys carried her collar around. I had to make them put it away after a while because the tinkling sound of it made me think Ani was coming into the room.

Today was awful, too. We came and went and there was no wagging tail to greet us, no one to let out into the backyard, no barking when the mailman came. Just total stillness.

There will never be another dog like her, we will always miss her terribly.

Thank you, Ani, for worming your way into my heart. I will never forget you.

Wordless Wednesday


no Whining this time!

After a late night planning session yesterday, we are back up and rolling with our winter session of home school. This time around, I made checklists for all three kids instead of just for Alec. I like to give him a checklist so that the expectations are all laid out, and he can work independently without me having to remind him every 5 minutes what he's supposed to be doing.

The extra checklists for Benji and Ava were tremendously helpful this morning, it helped me to stay on track and know exactly when I was finished with them and they liked checking off each box as it was completed.

We also tried a tip I heard from a friend: I first spent about half an hour doing preschool activities with Ava, while Benji and Alec worked independently in the other room. Alec helped Benji if he got stuck reading something, but other than that they worked on their own, with the knowledge that I was unavailable to them until preschool was over.

After that, I sat with the boys and checked over their work, or helped them complete things they had gotten stuck on. There was a little too much of that for my liking, but as time goes on they will hopefully get more used to working like that and will complete more on their own.

Next we had lunch and afterward Ava watched a movie for her quiet time while I did science and history with the boys. We got a late start, this being our first day "back to normal" after the two week battle with the flu, but all in all I think the schooling part of the day went well.

Now, on to the afternoon, with housework, photo editing, and babysitting! We'll see how this part of the day goes...

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