Friday, December 28, 2012


I had tears in my eyes on Christmas night. It was a lovely day, and I didn't want it to end. Indeed, we stretched it out until the very last minute, finally pulling into our driveway at midnight. It's hard for me every year, and I revisited the thoughts I posted from last year as a prep and pick-me-up. But it was still hard. I still found it difficult to be perky and joyful and merry and bright on the days after. On the days when kids were tired and sniffly and sneezy and the house was littered with post Christmas paper, projects and boxes.

I've noticed that a few people have mentioned that they absolutely love this week between Christmas and New Year's. And I do love the coziness. The time to slow down after the holiday rush and read a book or watch an old movie, put together puzzles, pop popcorn and sip cider.

But I have to force myself to be merry. It doesn't come naturally. This morning the tears threatened again, and I told myself it was ridiculous. I told myself the same thing that I told my children on Christmas night: everything that we celebrate on Christmas Day is just as true the next day. We still have Jesus, and we still have each other. I gave myself the pep-talk, but I still felt like I was trudging through the Slough of Despond, an unnamed burden upon my back.

So I grabbed my Bible. I've learned that this is the best salve when despondency weighs on the soul. With a mug of tea in one hand, I visited the chapter in Nehemiah where I had left off last time. Again, the Lord faithfully brought to me just what I needed at just the right time.

And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them joy.
Nehemiah 12:43

That's right. It is God who gives us joy. If we rely on circumstances (as I so often do), then we are sure to be disappointed. But if we acknowledge that God is the source of joy, then we cannot be disappointed.

As I read and wrote and prayed, I asked God to bring me joy. I asked Him to show me that He is still Emmanuel, that He is still with me. I thumbed through the Psalms, landing on my favorite joy passages:

Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; in Thy presence is fullness of joy.
Psalm 16:11

Yes, it is only in His presence that I can fully experience joy.

And David's cry, which resonated with my spirit,

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.
Psalm 42:5

Hope. His presence. God with us. God with me. We have it all!

And finally, the linchpin that seems upside-down,

Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
Psalm 50:14

A sacrifice. That means to give thanks . . . even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. Even when it doesn't look like a blessing. Because He is present. He is Emmanuel. And that is where the joy is.

I pulled out my neglected gratitude journal and scratched out a few lines. I had forgotten to give thanks. I had forgotten that my thank you is a hallelujah to Him that in turn brings joy and blessing.

My spirit found peace, and I thanked the Lord for leading me through the valley once again.

Ready to face the day, I recalled a bit of practical advice that gave wings to my sluggish feet. I've read this advice in various forms, and each time it's like a gentle nudge. A bit of motherly advice that keeps me moving when I need that push forward.

Louisa May Alcott said it in Little Women through Marmee: "Hope and keep busy, dear daughter!"

Elisabeth Elliot found a similar course of action to be helpful when facing trials: "Do the next thing."

And a simple little line from the Elsie Dinsmore books, "Find the nearest duty and fulfill it."

Sometimes it helps to just think of one little thing that needs to be done. To find that nearest duty, that next thing, that small task that will keep us busy. I often find that when I've accomplished a chore, it spurs me on to tackle a bit more. And so the day continues and, before I know it, I've marked several things off my list and my spirits are lifted considerably.

And so I took the baby steps that ultimately led me through the day, filling it with a quiet joy that I know only the Lord could give.

* * * * *

If you find yourself in a similar frame of mind today, dear friend, may I encourage you? I know how you feel. I also know that there's a way to rise joyfully beyond the despondency.

1. Seek Him. Ask the Lord to renew a spirit of joy in your heart. It comes from Him! And He is extravagant in His gifts. He longs not only to give you joy, but to give you the fullness of joy!

2. Give thanks. A spirit of gratitude leads to joy. Look at the gifts around you -- thank Him for even the very simplest things if need be. A new day. A new hope. A new joy.

3. Begin small. Don't try to tackle the day. Just do the next thing. Take baby steps. Find the nearest duty and fulfill it. It can be daunting to say, "I'm going to clean the entire house today!" when coming off of an exhausting week. Try instead to give yourself small goals and see if they don't spur you on to do just a little bit more. "Hope and keep busy, dear daughter!"

Blessings on you, my dear friends, as this year comes quietly to a close. May you find the fullness of joy in the Lord's presence, both now and in the year to come.    

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

{Merry and Bright}

May your days be merry and bright, dear ones! Wishing you a blessed, joyous Christmas, with love from the Lawson family.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

{Cozy Days}

Hunkering down with tea, games and a puzzle today. It feels cozy. There's snow in the forecast. I'll take it.

Bethie and Aidan are alternately playing Scattergories and Dutch Blitz. We're kind of addicted to Dutch Blitz.

Little Miss has decided that she would like to sew some bedding for her doll, so she's stitching away as I puzzle. It's pretty sweet. (We'll see if her enthusiasm outlasts her fingers.) She also did her own hair today. She's taken with the idea of putting two sponge rollers in her hair before bed. The effect is so very . . . Jane Austen. Mrs. Elton comes to mind.

We're filling these long winter days with Christmas preparations and excitement. We'll probably have a cookie making day, and we might hop on over to Noni's later this week to help her roll out the ravioli for Christmas dinner. The kids are also excited for the day when they get to wrap each others' presents. I love their enthusiasm in giving to each other.

Other than a few more Christmas goodies to purchase, our days aren't too busy. I'm thankful. The rest and peace do us good.

How are you filling your holiday afternoons and evenings? Any fun traditions that we should try out?
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Monday, December 17, 2012

{The Return of Peace}

"I'm frightened," she simpered. Little Miss wiggled on my lap as we waited for the Christmas program to begin. It had been a hard day for her. Contrary. Belligerent. Defiant.

I tried not to let her see the exasperation in my face. Always so dramatic. Frightened? Good grief.

She said it again, but this time she gave the reason. "I'm frightened that I won't be able to see the nativity."

The sea of heads in front of us blocked the stage, and she didn't want to miss the manger. I took a deep breath as I pondered her response. I didn't want to miss the manger either. I didn't want to let my frustration, my impatience, my selfishness prevent me from seeing Jesus in that moment.

The program began, and for most of the evening the action was visible from where my Little Miss sat. But as the manger scene drew near, I realized that I'd have to move in order for her to fully see the baby. The lights dimmed and I quietly ushered my daughter to the aisle. I checked to make sure we weren't standing in front of anyone, and then we positioned ourselves in full view of the manger. She was satisfied. 

Too often I make comfort my objective. I want to stay seated, comfortably watching the show. But the squirming one on my lap reminds me that sacrifice is often necessary in order to show Jesus to others.

The next morning these thoughts were still on my mind as I opened my Bible. Nehemiah encouraged his fearful people, "Don't be afraid of [our enemies]. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes." (Nehemiah 4:14)

Remember the Lord. Fight for your children.

These words are even more sobering a week later as I look at them in light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut. Our nation is rocked. We are fearful. We hold our children closely and we cry, "Why?"

Shortly after I read Nehemiah that day, I found Spurgeon's evening devotion to be a source of great comfort and hope. The timing was uncanny. It was five days before the shooting, and I was quietly wondering how to minister to my own child in her own need, how to cultivate peace and joy in our own home.

The Scripture he drew upon was Isaiah 32:18.

My people shall dwell in quiet resting places.

This, friends, is a promise. My people shall. Do you hear the confidence of the Shepherd? His protection? His hope? His loyalty? There is so much packed into this one line. And we need every word of it.

Spurgeon responds with the solution: "The person of Jesus is the quiet resting-place of His people, and when we draw near to Him in the breaking of bread, in the hearing of the word, the searching of the Scriptures, prayer, or praise, we find any form of approach to Him to be the return of peace to our spirits."

A week later, my own domestic struggles seem so petty. But in my own small way, I long for peace. In a much greater way, our nation longs for peace. And the answer to both is found in the nativity.

The thing is, we can't stay seated. We might miss it. This is frightening. We must stand. We must take our children by the hands, and we must take them to the manger. We must show them the beauty of Love. We must show them how attractive it is to serve, to sacrifice, to give. And there, as we fall down in worship, we will indeed find the return of peace to our spirits.

Dear ones, let us linger long before our Prince of Peace, today and always.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

{Are You Crying Yet?}

The other night when we shared our Christmas favorites around the dinner table, I mentioned two songs that I particularly like to hear on the radio. My younger kids don't quite get it yet, but to "like" a song (at least in my mind) often means that it brings tears to my eyes. (This is why I anticipate bawling my way through Les Mis in two weeks.)

I have a hard time explaining this emotion to them, but it has to do with the ache of beauty. I think you know what I mean. Isn't it strange that beauty can cause pain?

This evening as I was out running errands with Aidan and Avery, one of "my" songs played on the radio. I frantically waved my arm toward the back seat and shouted, "This is it! The one that makes me cry! That Canon one I was talking about!"

At this point I envisioned them quietly folding their hands in reverential awe. It didn't happen.

"Are those supposed to be boys singing?" She demanded. "They sound like girls."

"Well, sweetie, I think it's a boys' choir. They're young . . ." I explained.


I let my spirit soar with the strains, only to be brought down again.

"Are you crying yet?"

"Not yet."

We headed in the direction of Daddy's office. She knew that we were going there, yet still she shouted from the back seat, "Where are we going?"

Deep breaths. I wanted to soar. She didn't get it.

"Are you crying yet?"

Aidan chimed in, "Are you crying yet?" They leaned forward, hoping to see their mother's face in tearful contortions.

"Are you crying yet?" 

And believe it or not, I did have tears in my eyes. The music was beautiful (albeit interrupted) and the lively chatter of my children reminded me that I truly had much to be thankful for.

Would you like to take a listen? Maybe it will make you cry, too.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

{Playing Dress-Up}

If I'm given an opportunity to dress up, I frequently say, "Why . . . sure!"

If I'm given an opportunity to dress up in Victorian costume, I say, "I'll be there immediately. My dress is ready."

So it was with great delight that I donned a frock this weekend to help a friend during her holiday home tour.

Annie shares all about it over at Dusk. Won't you join us? We'll be happy to pour you a cup of tea.
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Friday, December 7, 2012

{Table Talk, Christmas Style}

Last night as we sat around the dinner table, something in my foggy brain snapped and I realized that Jamie and I had become too distracted by our own thoughts to see what was happening. The children had stealthily taken over the conversation which quickly turned into much loudness and rudeness which in turn made my head throb. I don't mind lively children. I do, however, mind lively children who absently drag their hair through the soup or land their elbows in the butter because the level of activity has gotten way out of hand.

It was time to switch gears. We often rely on a "question of the day" when we need to guide the conversation around the dinner table. Because it's the Christmas season, I offered a couple of easy-peasy questions to get the banter headed in a more civilized direction. Each person took turns sharing their favorite:

Christmas song
Christmas treat
Christmas movie

I tried not to frown when Aidan contributed "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," and Jamie tried not to frown when I called Meet Me in St. Louis a "Christmas" movie (I chose White Christmas instead). But overall it was a merry ending to what could have been a rather volatile evening.

We were even calm enough by bedtime to quietly light the candles for our Jesse Tree devotions. (And by "quietly" I mean that Little Miss didn't shout as she read the Word of God, she just bellowed.)

One of the Family by Frederich Cotman, 1880
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Monday, December 3, 2012

{Using a Variety of Sources for Copywork and Dictation}

Because I want to train my children to appreciate excellent writing, and because I want them to have the ability to confidently put their own words onto paper, one of their weekly assignments is to copy sentences or take dictation from various readings. As they write the words of the master writers, their minds are learning to anticipate the beauty of a well-chosen phrase, the power of metaphor and the comfort of rhythm. Slowly but surely, these words will become their own, equipping them to one day write with feeling and clarity.

How do I do this? Continue reading over at The Homeschool Classroom.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

{From the Christmas Notebook}

Thanksgiving came early this year, didn't it? I keep feeling like I need to frantically rush into Christmas preparations, and then I remember that it's not even December yet.

We had a nice time with family this year, with "Thanksgiving A" spent with Jamie's family and "Thanksgiving B" (that would be Friday) spent with mine. The shadow puppet show was lots of fun, but I think my favorite part was seeing the kids ad-lib after the stories were done. They kept creeping behind the sheet, ready to captivate the audience with yet another adventure.

Thanksgiving B morphed into a ginormous sleepover which, although exhausting, was lots of fun, too. On Saturday morning Papa made steamers like crazy while Noni deftly whipped out the pankawaffleups and aebleskivers. (Those are real foods. Trust me.)

Now, although it is still November, I'm going to sneak into Christmas mode for a minute. And here's why: Last year I was in bed before midnight on Christmas Eve. Before. Midnight. Never, ever had I done that before (at least, not as an adult.)

So at the end of the Christmas season last year, I sat down and took a few notes. I wanted to remember what elements worked together to make the holiday special and not so rushed and frantic and last minute.

In case you have similar Christmas goals, I thought I'd share a few suggestions from my notebook:

1. Decorate the tree early. This year and last we got our tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It worked out beautifully to head into December with the tree already decorated. (This also paved the way for a peaceful beginning to the Jesse Tree advent which begins on November 29th.)

Last year after we cut down the tree we carved an "L" into the stump. This year the kids searched and searched . . . and they found last year's stump!

Now this year's "L" stump is ready for next year.

2. Pick a "due date" other than December 25. Set a goal to have gifts ready and wrapped by an earlier date. It's exhausting to wrap gifts on Christmas Eve and it always takes longer than anticipated. It's also nice to have the wrapping supplies put away rather than crammed in a closet at the last minute. (Not that I've ever done that before . . . .) If everything is ready by, say, December 20th, then you will be more rested for the big day.

3. Clean out the fridge a week in advance. It's helpful to have it all ready to stock with Christmas goodies. Think ahead to the week after Christmas, too, with meal planning. It's nice if you don't have to go grocery shopping on December 26th! Make an extra big pot of soup that can be frozen or stock up on a couple of Costco lasagnas to make post holiday meals easier.

4. Don't forget the stockings! Stocking stuffers always seem to sneak up on me. Last year I came up with a plan that worked really well. I tucked four shoe boxes under the bed, one for each child. I made a list of gift ideas to keep in my purse, and as I shopped throughout the month I added to the boxes. It was so helpful to have a visual of what I had and where I was lacking without needing to dig through an assortment of plastic bags mashed behind my high heels in the closet.

5. Begin the bedtime routines early. The longer nights make this easier, but aim to have dinner earlier during December so that the bedtime routines are peaceful and pleasant and not rushed. This is an ideal time to read books while drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire or to share advent traditions such as the Jesse Tree. Of course not every night will be seamless, but overall it's so worth it to aim for that atmosphere of peace.

Speaking of bedtime routines, I still have two more (not so) little heads to bless before they drift off into dreamland. So I'll leave you for now. In the mean time, may your homes be filled with peace, joy and hope as you ease your way into the Christmas season.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

{Important Nothings}

Where shall I begin? Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?
(Jane Austen, in a letter to her sister, 1808)

So many important nothings to share. Really, they are nothing. But for amusement's sake I shall list them for you, chapter by (very brief) chapter. And maybe they'll be something after all.

Chapter 1: The Joke

Aidan made me laugh today. (Really, though, he makes me laugh every day.) So this morning it was this: Maizy was trying to peek through the blinds that cover the school room sliding door. Aidan looked outside to see if perhaps a cat or squirrel was teasing her by trespassing. He didn't see anything but the fog resting quietly on the tree tops. His assessment? "She must have been MIST-ified by the fog!" Silly boy.

Chapter 2: The Book

About this time every year, I have the desire to read Little Women. Sometimes I read the whole thing, and other times I hit a few chapters, just to get the flavor. It's like visiting with an old friend. Do you have a book you enjoy revisiting? Speaking of books, I recently discovered a new website, What Should I Read Next? Just enter the name of a favorite book or author and it generates a list of similar titles that you might enjoy. Snazzy, huh?

Chapter 3: The Wood

My children have grown accustomed to my embarrassing detours. Recently, my Wednesday afternoon detour involves wood. You see, for the first time in many years we have a wood-burning fireplace. This means that it's nice to have wood. It's even nicer to have free wood. (I'm fond of a bargain.) Well. Just down the road from our church is a business that has a huge bin out front marked, "Free Wood." So every Wednesday, as we pass from Hockinson back into the 'Couv after piano and biology, I veer ever so slightly to the right. The children hop out and load up the broken two-by-fours and a few fence pieces and voila! We have ourselves a wood pile. We're so classy that way.  

Chapter 4: The Drama

Jamie and I just finished season two of Downton Abbey. Are you as in love as I am? So now we wait. In the mean time we're enjoying Call the Midwife and Bleak House. And when I say "we" I mean that my dear husband is kind enough to let me choose. And I almost always choose a British drama. Why wouldn't I?

Chapter 5: The Pancakes

Lately I've been picking up canned pumpkin whenever I go to Trader Joe's. One of my favorite ways to use it is in pancakes. So yummy! This morning I added a twist: shredded apple and pumpkin. Oh, my. Happy, happy tastebuds. Drizzled in maple syrup. Happy, happy. I also found a recipe for pumpkin snickerdoodles. Doesn't that sound fun? Maybe I'll try them this weekend.

Chapter 6: The Decor

I am very s.l.o.w. when it comes to decorating. Some of that is because I'm a very indecisive person. I think. Well, maybe not. No, I think I am. It also has something to do with the fact that I don't really know what I'm doing. Pinterest has been helpful in that department. If I can get an idea of something, I can run with it. But I can't make it up out of thin air. Currently I've been playing around with the space above my kitchen cabinets. The walls really need some color, but for now I'm playing around with the decor. I'm thinking I'll add something to the black coffee pot on the left. Maybe something branchy or leafy. Any suggestions? 

Chapter 7: The Show

Next week is Thanksgiving. Which means that next week we get to put on our annual shadow puppet show. The kids and I have put it on for my family for several years now, and it's become quite a fun tradition. The show is performed behind a white sheet which has one of Jamie's studio lights projected onto it. We've made several cardboard figures to represent different characters in whichever story we happen to be telling. So far the "stories" have included the poems "Over the River and Through the Woods," and "First Thanksgiving of All." We rotate through or repeat them every year, and it's always a lot of fun (with much giggling). Can't wait to do it again. 


Thus concludes this week's record of Important Nothings. May you delight in the variety of both the "nothings" and "somethings" that come your way. For there is joy to be found in it all.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

{Within Our Reach}

The Mist and All
Dixie Willson

I like the fall,
The mist and all.
I like the night owl's
Lonely call --
And wailing sound
Of wind around.

I like the gray
November day,
And bare, dead boughs
That coldly sway
Against my pane.
I like the rain.

I like to sit
And laugh at it --
And tend
My cozy fire a bit.
I like the fall --
The mist and all.

This month I'm purposing to give thanks. We're off to a rocky start (going on day eleven with at least one person sick) but I'm finding there's still so much for which I'm grateful:

Creativity . . .

Humor . . .

Flexible education . . .

Art . . .

Visitors . . . (chuga-rum!)

And always, always, for him . . .

For every day of November I plan to share an aspect of my gratitude on my facebook wall. Many are joining me. Would you do the same, either here, there . . . or anywhere?

Because gratitude paves the way for joy.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy.
Fra Giovanni

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

{Twists and Turns}

This week has been a twisty-turny one. We were never quite sure what was going to be around the next bend. Often the bend brought another feverish brow and another request for apple juice. With a straw.

They call me "Mother" when they're sick. It's sweet.

I timed the distribution of antibiotics, fluffed pillows, read stories, stirred soup and took temperatures. (I still have this impulse to shake down the mercury. Isn't that funny?)

All the while the kids looked anxiously at the calendar. They had costumes all ready, and Grandpa and Grandma were coming for a visit.

They worked on puzzles, watched videos and called me "Mother" some more.

Wednesday arrived, and so did Grandpa and Grandma. All the way from Alaska. Thankfully the fevers were down and we enjoyed sharing and visiting and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the beautiful pictures they brought from a breathtaking part of our country.

While the soup simmered on the stove and the grown-ups visited, the kids whisked themselves away to change into their evening attire.

At the last minute, my boy's fever spiked unexpectedly after having been normal all day. We bade the others farewell, and he and I shared some precious time together (frequently interrupted by the doorbell, of course).

I had a funny memory, being in this house and having sick kids. I remember the comfort of resting on the couch in this very family room, especially when the rhythm of home continued around me. I could hear my mom washing dishes in the kitchen or watch her walk by with a basket of laundry and it somehow made me feel better.

One time when I was eight or nine, resting feverishly on the couch, she walked by with the laundry basket on her head. I giggled, and she quickly came to me, feigned confusion, and said, "Are you okay?" I said something about the basket, and she put her hand on my forehead. "I don't know what you're talking about. You must be hallucinating, you poor dear!" And off she walked. With the big wicker basket on her head.

Tonight Aidan claimed to see The Cat in the Hat in our family room as he rested on the couch. I felt his brow, shook my head and sighed, "You poor dear. You must be hallucinating."

When he slipped under his covers tonight, he told me that he had a pretty fun evening, after all.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

{She Texts, Too}

My Little Miss loves the written word. She scribbles notes and reminders and stories and plays throughout the day. I finally requested that she start keeping them in a binder -- I just couldn't handle the paper trail and certainly didn't want to recycle a treasured story or poem.

It's not uncommon to find a note slipped under the door or a plea placed on my desk. Sometimes it's a reminder to herself, "Ask mom if I can have some gum," and sometimes it's a partial note to my mom:

"dear Noni, My buns ar done for my costume. I figurd . . . ."

(We never did find out what she "figurd.")

Frequently it's a tart response to a school assignment, such as this:

(Or this.)

She has recently discovered that texting is another effective means of communication. It's not uncommon for me to be out running errands and receive a buzzing, "Are u on your way home?"

We've had to request that our children sign their names to their texts; it's not always clear who's doing the communicating. She usually remembers (at some point) and her messages go something like this:

"Hi mom! this is Avery. I know a palindrome. Now i won! and, no melon, no lemon."

I kid you not.

One afternoon I was at Trader Joe's, frantically throwing items into the cart in order to make it back to the gym in time to pick up Bethie. I couldn't remember if we had tortilla chips and sent a plea back home for the kids to check the pantry for me. The reply (which arrived a full ten minutes later):

"I dont know. By the way this is Avery. I dont feel very good, because of the fake book from the library. Wish me some good luck so i dont barf."

I burst out laughing in the wine aisle, wished her "some good luck" and suggested that maybe she should look at a different book. Her response (which took some time to compose) reached me as I was checking out:

"Okay. That might be better. Can i wach Pingu? THAT might be better for ME." (My guffaws made it necessary for me to explain the texts to the checker.)

I denied her request, reminding her that it was family movie night. One show would be plenty for the day. She got over her disappointment fairly quickly.

Texting with my Little Miss is particularly fun when I get to send special news while I'm out running errands.

"Avery! I just bought a brown headband for your BUNS!!!"

"AWSOME! Are you going to start my buns today? if you are, i am so exscited! if you dont know who i am i am Avery."

I started her buns that day.

As if I could ever not know my Avery.
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Saturday, October 20, 2012

{Fall Inspiration}

Have you felt the nip in the air? Has your breath been taken away by the vibrant hues splashed across the trees?

There's something crisp and exhilarating about fall that makes me want to hold onto it for as long as possible. One way I do this is by bringing it inside.

My mom recently made several centerpieces for a church function, and I quickly fell in love with the look she came up with. Determined to do the same for our own table, I looked around the yard and grabbed some birch branches and a few scarlet-tinged leaves. A little weaving here, a little tucking there, and a wreath began to take shape.

Little Miss had gathered some acorns near the library yesterday, and she was more than willing to let them play a role in our centerpiece. A few decorative apples (from another project) found their way into the mix, and I added some moss (also from another project) to give it a cozy-nesty kind of look. It was fun to come up with as many "homemade" options as possible. The only purchase I made involved laying out a whole $1.18 for the cinnamon sticks. Not bad!

I love walking by my table and seeing the warm, bright colors. And of course the kids love lighting and blowing out and lighting and blowing out and lighting and blowing out the centerpiece. Fun for all. Fun for fall!
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I'd forgotten (silly me) how messy the house gets when it starts to rain. The kids get this housebound, feverish, nervous energy, and it manifests itself in an explosion of LEGOs, blanket forts, papers, pencils (left on the couch!), books, balls, boxes, puzzles . . . you get the drift.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that this kind of messy is a good kind of messy. It's creative, it's productive, and it serves to further develop my kids' relationships with each other.

It's also extremely loud.

And sometimes downright hilarious.

Maybe being housebound isn't so bad, after all.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

{Soup Time}

Fall is a whirl of activity, sweeping by like the birch leaves that litter our sidewalk. It's my favorite time of year. I used to think it had something to do with my birthday being in the fall. And then one day I learned that my birthday is not in the fall. It's really on the tail-end of summer. I was a bit discouraged when I realized that. Oh, well. It's still my favorite time of year.

I think of sweaters and steaming mugs of cocoa, the thick smell of smoke rising from the chimneys as I take my afternoon walk, little girls in plaid skirts and Mary Janes, thick books, sharpened pencils . . . and I think of soup.

So last week I hatched a soup plan. You see, I could eat soup every day. And it makes such a great lunch. So I decided that Saturday would be my Soup Making Day. (We shall see how long my enthusiasm lasts.) Last week I made a big pot of Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash and Quinoa. I stored it away in the fridge, and on Monday during our morning break I popped it on the stove. By the time I had returned from my crispy-blustery pre-lunch walk, I had a nice, hot pot of soup waiting for me. It was such a treat, and it saved me a bunch of time.

The kids were divided on this particular recipe (and Certain People omitted the tomatoes, as shown above), but overall they gave it a fairly good rating. Inspired by our latest family read, All-of-a-Kind Family, I served each child a small mug of soup as a "first course." It really is a delightful read. Set during the turn of the century, the author describes the lunch hour when the children come home from school:

All of Mama's family liked soup. They learned to like it because Mama always served it at the beginning of her dinner. There was a strict rule about not wasting any food in Mama's house. This rule had been made into a chant by the children: No soup, no meat. No meat, no vegetables. No vegetables, no fruit. No fruit, no penny.

In order to get the next thing, they had to give a decent crack at the first thing on the menu. (I've done this with dinner salad, too, and it works marvelously. We pretend like we're at a restaurant, and I serve the salad first. Once the plates are empty, they receive the main dish.)

So at lunch on Monday, they were hungry and would eat anything. After they had given the soup a fair shot, they were welcome to either have more soup (Bethie and Aidan took me up on this) or make a sandwich if they still had a rumbly in their tumbly. (They also wondered if they might get a penny. Or perhaps a nickel. Inflation, you know.) 

The soup lasted for three days. I even had enough to bring to my kiddos' piano teacher and her husband. (Yes, they happen to be my parents.) Bethie suggested, "We should bring soup for Noni's lunch every week!" And I agreed.

You see, our whirl of activity brings us to my parents' every Wednesday for lessons. I bring school work for the kids, but one of my favorite things to do is to curl up with my Little Miss for some Beatrix Potter. Today we enjoyed The Tale of Two Bad Mice. She finds this particular story to be quite naughty. (Which means she loves it.) Often, the autumn sun pours through the family room window, casting a patch of light on the floor. I've been known to curl up right in that spot, cat-like, to soak in the warmth as the scales run up and down the piano, with Little Miss at my side. With the smell of soup warming on the stove, it's like a taste heaven.

* * * * * * *

I'm eager to try some new soups as I develop my routine. I might stick with a favorite -- Zuppa Toscana -- this week (oh, so good), but I do love trying new recipes, too. Especially at the recommendation of others. Let me know if you have a favorite, and feel free to share a link if you have one. My tummy thanks you in advance. (And so does my mother.)
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