Monday, June 25, 2012


She marched into the bathroom, pulled open the drawer and grabbed a hairbrush. "Can I help you, honey?" I offered. We were bustling to get ready for church, and I was hopeful that she would allow me to assist in the grooming process. I wanted her to look perfect, you know.

"I can do it myself," she replied with characteristic confidence. I cringed.

She yanked the sides back and violently twisted a rubber band into place. Grabbing another rubber band, she pulled the bottom section into a ponytail and proceeded to adorn the look with a hair claw.

I looked on in silent agony as my dreams of perfectly symmetrical pig-tails vanished. It took a fair measure of self control.

I don't always show such restraint. She's messy. She's loud. For such a tiny thing, she sure does take up a lot of space. Of course I love her intensely. But I have a hard time knowing what to do with the passion of a determined six-year-old. (You may have gathered as much.)

When I was in college I taught a Sunday school class. It was a perfect opportunity for me to interact with children and gain some classroom experience since, at the time, I planned to pursue teaching. It was a fun group of kids, and we learned a lot from each other. (I'm sure that I learned more from them than they did from me.)

As is generally the case in any classroom, one student was particularly . . . how shall I put it? . . . . challenging. Not downright naughty, just boisterous and often in need of . . . gentle correction. I didn't know what to do with him and was relieved when his mother stayed after class one day to visit.

She was a woman I admired. Warm, engaging and hospitable. I knew I could be honest with her when she asked, "How is he doing in class?"

I confessed that he was a bit of a handful and eagerly awaited her advice on how to control the little man. She smiled and patted my arm saying, "I was the same way!" And that's all the advice I got.

It wasn't what I wanted to hear. But, looking back, I realize it was what I needed to hear.

And you know what? This is also what I hear from you. You write to me and say, "I was just like Avery when I was little! My poor mother!"

And you are beautiful, godly women who are vivacious and full of spunk and I love you.

My eyes are filling with tears as I write this because you give me hope. You point me toward the beauty of a spirit who is free and full of life. You show me that the smoothest path is not always the best.

You remind me that a frightful looking Sunday morning hairdo is not worth obsessing over. And I see the foolishness of imposing my own standards on such a child.

* * * * *

She finally finished twisting her hair into place. It bulged and rippled in all the wrong places. I kept my mouth shut.

Clutching the hand-held mirror, she turned around to catch a glimpse of the full effect in the wall mirror behind her. "That looks good!" she announced, eyes sparkling. And back out the door she skipped, all ready for church.

When I allow myself to look at the core of this child, when I look past the mess, the defiance and the volume, I see confidence. I see creativity and determination and an inhibition which I admire. Yes, these traits still require guidance. I have a feeling that when she is grown she will frequently beseech the Holy Spirit for an extra measure of certain fruits which only He can cultivate.

But I also have a feeling that, tucked away, is the woman who will one day be an incredibly dear friend. And that, to me, looks very, very good.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

{Seize the Summer: How to Grow During the Break}

With the last day of school quickly approaching, I find myself experiencing conflicting emotions. I do look forward to the change of pace, the relaxed days and the beckoning outdoors. But to be completely honest, I also feel a bit anxious. Going from a fairly rigid school schedule to practically no schedule at all can create a whiplash effect.

Join me over at The Homeschool Classroom today to continue reading!
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

{The Book List: A Work in Progress}

I'm excited to report that my book list is now up and running! I will continue to add to it from time to time, and to that end I treasure your input and suggestions along the way. Feel free to use it, pin it and share it. But most of all, share it with the children in your life.

You can visit our list by clicking the "Books" tab above, or you can follow the link here: Books.

Happy reading, dear friends!
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

{Old Enough}

I was waiting for the perfect time. They had to be old enough to appreciate it, yet young enough to grow up with it. It was a hard window to capture with the girls being five years apart.

But when they came down with the flu just in time for summer vacation, I knew that the time was now. The time to introduce them to Emma.

Not only would I be introducing them to Emma, but I would also be introducing them to the incomparably delightful world of Jane Austen. From here we could move on to Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. And one day they will arrive at the piece de resistance: BBC's Pride and Prejudice. It will be a glorious day.

But two hours of Austen's wit and humor is certainly an excellent start. I ceremoniously poured the tea and nodded to Miss Kate who sat eagerly with the remote in hand. She pushed play and the beautiful strains filled the living room. Drew's eyebrows met in the middle, "This sounds really familiar." I explained that they'd been listening to the soundtrack for their entire lives.

Bethie reclined quietly in the corner of the couch, feverish both with excitement and the flu. I knew she would like it.

It was Little Miss Avery Kate I wasn't so sure about. This was confirmed when she began to vehemently glare at me every single time I laughed.

I laughed when Mr. Elton seemed to appear from nowhere, eager to have Emma's painting framed. Glare.

I laughed when Mr. Elton wormed his way between Emma and Mr. Knightly during their tete-a-tete at the Christmas party. Glare.

I laughed when Miss Bates yelled "Pork!" Glare.

She even glared when I cheered for Mr. Knightly as he escorted Harriet to the dance floor. (Best scene ever.) 

Finally the glaring ceased and the questions began. Questions laced with a fair amount of disgust. "Why is he wearing tights?" (As if nineteenth century fashion was my fault.)

I filled her with tea in an attempt to keep her mouth busy, but she still had quite a bit to say. Right up until the very end.

"Ewww! I did not know that's how people kissed." She walked away, only to return and find Emma and Mr. Knightly at it again. "Ewww! It's disgusting. They keep on kissing!"

The credits rolled. I peeked over at Bethie. She smiled. "Did you like it, honey?" She glowed and nodded. She liked it.

Now, deep down I think my Little Miss kind of liked it, too. You see, about thirty minutes into every movie we watch, she usually starts to quietly act it out. Emma was no exception. Shortly after Emma and Harriet rode through town in their little phaeton, Avery left the room and began to drag in all sorts of props in order to make her own little carriage. She raided the dress up box and soon perched herself gloriously behind the reins.

And she even asked to watch a certain scene over again. (Of course it was the attack at the gypsy camp. I said no. What is wrong with this child?)

I think I'll give her a little more time to acquire a taste for Austen. After all, she is only six. But hopefully it won't take too long. Cause I really want to watch Pride and Prejudice. Tomorrow.
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Saturday, June 16, 2012


I asked them if they wanted to do it again. They lit up. "Yes!" And they started to spout out their dreams for the summer.

Their enthusiasm was a balm to my soul. I started to get excited, too.

I'm dreaming about the books I'll read, the hikes we'll take and the projects I'll finish. I'm envisioning Pinterest projects finally realized. (The girls are excited that it involves their room.)

I pulled out my sketchbook-journal and mapped out the chart. The framework of what may be. It's a blank canvas right now. Hopeful. Waiting. Expectant.

But soon, little hands will scribble their own goals across the lines.

We'll keep the goals realistic. (Sorry, dear, no Disneyland.) Measurable. (Great job knitting that dishcloth!) And fun. (Camping, anyone?)

As we've done in the past, each person will choose three things they'd like to accomplish in each category: Three places they'd like to go, three things they'd like to do and three books they'd like to read. (You can read more about our system over here.) 

This year I'm going to suggest that we each broaden our scope. I'd love to see each person's "to do" section include one area of service and one measurable project completed.

In the reading department I'm going to encourage them to choose from a variety of genres. Biographies are always intriguing and inspiring. (And they have a way of changing us. My friend and I, after recently reading about the unique life of Tasha Tudor, had an irresistible urge to walk around in dresses while sipping tea, tending our gardens and milking the goats. So far the tea sipping is the most realistic part of this dream.)

The sun is bright and hopeful this morning. The breeze dances in whispers across the treetops as Miss Kate plays out back with Maizy. She hollers, "Mom! Come jump on the trampoline with me!"

It's obvious she's been listening to the Newsies soundtrack again. The song she's humming? Seize the Day.
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Friday, June 15, 2012


Would you believe me if I told you that two of these little people would one day grow up and marry each other?

It's true. The brooding, pig-tailed urchin in the lower right hand corner and the mischievous little firecracker in the far back, also on the right. They got married sixteen years ago. 

And they lived happily ever after. (In spite of the brooding brow and mischievous antics.) Just like she always knew they would.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

{The Truth About Summer}

We're winding up the school year this week, and already I'm starting to feel suffocated. Not by the heat. (Because there isn't any.) And not by over-scheduling. (Because we don't usually cram a whole lot into the summer months.)

It's a panicky sort of suffocation that I might even venture to call a depression. I tell my husband that I'm not so sure if I even like summer, and he's convinced that I'm deranged. (And then he offers to get groceries and make dinner. I love this man.)

Don't worry. I'm not going all Sylvia Plath on you. I just don't know what else to call it. But I wonder if this floundering melancholy is common among homeschool moms.

Here's the lowdown. We schedule and schedule our days from September to June, and our lives revolve around making some sense and order out of the curriculum, lessons and chores that seem to fill every waking moment. Then, on some arbitrary day in June we say, "Okay, folks. All done!" And the kids shriek and shout because that's what the release of tension does.

But like the cartoon we silently wonder, "Now what?" Guess we'll just walk right back in and keep on doing what we always do, even if it no longer revolves around memorizing presidents and reducing fractions.

I sometimes envy my public school friends who look forward to that last day of school. They know it means that they get to spend all summer with their kiddos and soak up every minute that they can before putting them back on the big yellow bus in September when they will, no doubt, dissolve in tears after a blissful three month holiday. (This is a completely accurate portrayal, I'm sure.)

I don't put my kids on the bus. (Sometimes I really want to.) They're home, not only during the summer, but during the fall, the winter and the spring. Every. Blessed. Season. Don't get me wrong. I love it. (I repeat this to myself from time to time as a mantra.) But I'm also aware that there isn't a marked change that occurs from one season to the next.

We're still all home, and we're still all spending the whole entire day together. Still.

So this is where my suffocation creeps in. Isn't there supposed to be a drastic shift from school days to summer days? Yes, it's great to be done grading math papers. And yes, I love sleeping in. But still.

This morning I began my day in the Psalms, which I'm learning is a good way to begin my summer days. I focus on Psalms 145-150, because that's where I want my heart to be. The Psalms of praise. I am created to praise, no matter the circumstances, and will be most true to myself when I am doing just that.

When I feel suffocated, I remind myself of the rhythm that comforts.

I read Psalms of praise. Even if I don't feel all praisy, I know my spirit is refreshed by the truth of His word. It's a good way to begin the day. (Especially when accompanied by a hot cup of tea.) I'm learning to observe other "sacred pauses" throughout the day, and have set my phone alarm to remind me to praise through the Psalms at intervals throughout the day.

I do the next thing. Years ago my mother-in-law taught me about Elisabeth Elliot's wise words. When I feel burdened with a weight that I can't describe, when I want to sit down and mope, when I want to stay in bed and wallow, I choose instead to do the next thing. Do that thing in front of me that needs to be done. That basket of laundry that needs to be folded? Fold it.

I choose small goals. This is similar to doing "the next thing." Rather than "clean the entire house today," I give myself a pat on the back for scouring the kitchen sink and wiping the milk that spilled in the fridge. I know that tackling the bathroom in one day is realistic. Organizing the garage is not.

I focus on the gifts. Even this morning, as I forced myself to list "the good," I soon found myself overwhelmed with the great number of gifts. God is so good to His people. I thought of my kids laughing as they jumped on the trampoline. I was grateful for their ability to pour their own bowls of cold cereal when I didn't feel like whipping up some impressive super mom organic breakfast. I thanked him for my husband, working hard to support six people.

I anticipate the good. I know there will be lots of fun adventures this summer. I look forward to camping, a family reunion, time with my grandparents, jaunts to the river and the second annual Cousins Camp. In the past I've used summer goals for our family (which we'll do again this year) and my own personal goals, too, like the pursuit of knowledge, health and beauty. These keep me grounded and a tad more sane.

I know I won't be in a fog for three months straight. It just kind of feels like it from time to time. So I remember the good. I cling to grace. I hold on to the truth. I remember where I've come from and I remember where I'm going. And I thank God that I'm His.

How do you respond to the summer months?
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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

{Post Sunday Lament}

Dear Church Family,

I'm sorry that my son smuggled three round crackers from the coffee cart into the sanctuary and that he silently nibbled at them during the prelude until they made perfect, "fourths" shaped pieces. We're studying fractions, you know.

I'm sorry that he propped up his feet on the top of the chair in front of him and that I had to give him fiery glances to strongly yet silently urge that he do otherwise. He was likely admiring his new shoes.

I'm sorry that it took him an entire minute to sip his communion cup and that he brazenly wiggled his eyebrows while doing so. He only gets grape juice once a month.

I'm sorry that he hurdled across five aisles after the service and that he again stealthily visited the coffee cart, this time in pursuit of thin red straws. He must have anticipated that our own supply was lacking.

I draw these transgressions to your attention, hopeful that you will deal ever so kindly with your wayward lambs.


A Fellow (Reformed) Straw Smuggler and Grape Juice Enthusiast
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Monday, June 4, 2012

{Bird Watching: How to Cultivate a Family Hobby}

When my oldest, who is now approaching high school, was still a bubbly little pre-schooler, I loved to watch him climb up onto my dad’s lap so they could flip through the bird guide together. He frequently ran to the window, pointed his chubby finger toward the trees and announced, “Look, Papa! A Chestnut-backed Chickadee!”

And that was all it took to get the whole family hooked on birds.

Join me over at The Homeschool Classroom today to continue reading!
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Friday, June 1, 2012

{I Forget}

Sometimes I forget. It usually happens the minute I walk through that door and smell those books. The sirens beckon and I forget to stop my ears. I forget that I have four children and four hundred responsibilities. I even forget the fact that I'm a fairly slow reader.

The only thing I remember is that I'm in love with books. I pile them up, pull out my library card and they're all mine for three whole weeks.

There's probably no way that I'll read them all in that amount of time. But these are the things I forget.

They sit on my nightstand with the others I've already started and I admire them and visit them as frequently as I can. I read a chapter here, a chapter there, depending on my mood and the genre that best matches it. I copy passages into my journals and notebooks, trying to hold on to a bit of the wisdom and wit. Sometimes I actually make it through the stack. Usually I don't.

But I forget this. And so I go right back and do it all over again.

Currently absorbed in 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker which a dear friend delivered right to my doorstep. Loving it. It has me laughing, praying, seeking and searching. Have you read it? If so, we must talk. If not, we must talk. 

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