Saturday, February 22, 2014

{Weekend Wanderings}

As Golde from Fiddler on the Roof would say, "A little bit of this, a little bit of that . . . ."

1. My nerves rested for one whole hour today! Goodbye, Mrs. Bennet. It was a dry, almost sunny day today, and I told Aidan and Avery that we'd find a place for them to rollerblade. I had my eye on the neighborhood elementary school since those covered basketball areas in the playground usually have such nice, smooth concrete. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) a sign was posted: NO Skateboarding, NO Rollerblading, etc. We drove on.

My next thought was to hit a small nearby park. I had noticed that the trail surrounding it seemed just the right size -- small enough to be encouraging yet big enough to be exciting. I pulled up, read the sign carefully, and -- relieved -- gave my kids a thumbs up. Out they rolled. They grinned down the sloping hill toward the park and wove their way around and around the perfect little trail. Even more perfect was the convenience of my parking spot: I could see them from where I sat and thoroughly enjoyed my tea, my book and . . . the quiet.

2. Speaking of books, I'm enjoying two reads right now. A friend recommended the Mitford books (I know, I know -- I've never read them!), and I found myself immediately falling in love with that quaint town and the delightful characters. Yes, I think "delightful" is the best way to describe At Home in Mitford.

I'm also reading A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot. (I know, I know! I've never read it!) Her life was so beautiful, so inspiring, so selfless. I look forward to meeting her one day. (I knew that she was especially remarkable when she gave up having cream in her tea in preparation for her work overseas!)

I found it interesting that she didn't like to be photographed, saying, "I wish it were possible to keep from this mode of embalmment." Elliot writes, "For the rest of her life she resisted being photographed . . . . She could not understand why anyone should wish to be preserved as he is when Christians have the sublime hope of being some day like Christ." What would she think of us today, in a world full of "selfies?" Oh, dear.

(Also on my nightstand but not yet started, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. Ha!)

3. We finished Pride and Prejudice last night. Bethie loved it, and Avery . . . will someday. They were most entertained by Mr. Collins, and frequently adopt the posture and mannerisms he uses when speaking with Lady Catherine. It's all quite diverting.
4. I'm trying to catch up on Downton Abbey and, girls, I have to be honest with you: I'm not sure how much more drama I can take. Does it seem like we're just going in circles here with the same type of plot being recycled over and over? I feel like the cast of likable characters grows more and more slim. I really feel more at home with the warmth of something like Lark Rise to Candleford. There. I said it.

5. My second batch of panetone is on its third rise. I'm learning how to make my grandmother's Italian fruit and nut bread, and I love that I have her handwriting to look at as I measure my ingredients. My mom figured out how to adapt it for the bread machine, making it quite a bit easier, and she makes it every year around Christmas time. I figured February was pretty close.

6. The Olympics are on! Time to go. But, before I do, I leave you with this, the ideal Olympic treat: edible torches. You're welcome.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

{My Nerves}

Over the last few weekends, I've been introducing my girls to one of the most wonderful stories ever written and captured on the screen. Of course I'm referring to Pride and Prejudice and of course I'm referring to the BBC production of it. I flatter myself that I have a bit of Elizabeth in me (don't we all?) or at least the quiet simplicity of Jane. But lately I'm afraid I've seen more of Mrs. Bennet in myself. This is horrifying. 

I blame the Olympics, which our family is quite devoted to. The skating events immediately inspired Little Miss to start saving up for some rollerblades (much more feasible than ice skating around here). During the snow storm she even offered to organize the game closet to earn a few bucks toward her goal. ("This is taking longer than I thought, Mom.") My sister heard of her plan and quietly mentioned that they had a pair at home that no one was currently using. They are now on the feet of my princess. Right now. Still. And always.

It's been so rainy lately that I said it was okay for her to skate inside. She quickly found a route from the front door to the school room and began gliding back and forth. And back and forth. And back and forth.

Aidan started to see the fun in all this and suggested that he might like to buy some blades, too. Last week on the way home from piano lessons, we decided to pop into Goodwill, just in case. And there they were, practically brand new rollerblades, just his size, just the right price.

So I now have two children gliding back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It makes school rather interesting. (They're allowed to keep the skates on as long as it doesn't interfere with their work.) One morning they made a game of their flash card drills. Aidan held up the problem and Avery had to zip by and say the answer without stopping. Of course it took much longer, but I'm not going to make a fuss about kids having fun with their multiplication facts.

The thing of it is, rollerblades are just so loud. Those children smack and crash and flop all over the place and I find that my shoulders are perpetually tense as a result; I'm just waiting for the next boot to smack into my chair or the next pair of hands to collide with the front door. I've become Mrs. Bennet, utterly convinced that no one has any compassion on my poor nerves.

They ask to help with dinner, and glide about the kitchen fetching utensils and slicing olives. It's loud. Things land on the floor. Children land on the floor. They ask if they can wear them in the car. They glide out the front door, smack into the car and clumsily climb in, smacking and crashing all throughout the drive. (Have I mentioned my poor nerves?) Whenever they get a chance, the blades go on. (I did have to put my foot down, however, when they attempted to wear them while using the bathroom.)

But I really shouldn't complain. It's winter, it's wet outside and they're having a great time. They laugh and smile as they time themselves and race each other, trying to beat the record for how many seconds it takes to go from the front door to the school room counter. (Smack!) Five seconds. All the same, I'm frantically wracking my brain. Surely there's a gym around here with a nice, smooth floor, that would welcome two children. Wait -- make that three. Bethie's saving up now, too. So a gym that would welcome three children . . . and Mrs. Bennet.

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Friday, February 14, 2014


Sometimes people win Olympic medals . . .

My sister and I are pictured here with Canadian figure skater and Olympic silver medalist, Brian Orser. We met him while visiting Sea World with our Nanee in 1989. (Don't we have cute hair?) It was fun to see that he is currently coaching one of the Japanese figure skaters we're watching this week!

And sometimes people win book giveaways! Thanks to my friends who entered and shared about the books their kids are enjoying right now. I'm happy to be giving a copy of Minn of the Mississippi to this week's winner, Gypsy. (I'll send you a message!)

Have a Happy Valentine's Day, friends, and enjoy your weekend!

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

{Snow Days, Slow Days}

It's been snowing for three days over in our neck of the woods. It's absolutely wonderful. We rarely get more than an inch or two (if we even get snow at all) so the seven inches blanketed across our yard is a glorious sight. Our days are slow and steady. I needed this pause.

We wake up in a rather leisurely fashion, gather around for a brunchy meal (today I made these super yummy French Breakfast Puffs) and then everyone seems to automatically grab a book and curl up for a bit like cats pondering the day ahead. Then someone will suddenly pop up and say, "Hey! Let's go outside!" So they bundle up and go outside.

They're working on building a fort, playing football, heading to the park, wrestling, collecting snow for the freezer -- whatever strikes them at the moment. I hold down the indoor fort. (Little Miss keenly observed that I'm the kind of mom that watches from inside. She also accused me of having hair that looks "sort of like plastic -- but that's a good thing!") So anyway, I work hard, keeping that hot water on the stove; it will only be a matter of time before they come back in, hoping for hot chocolate or tea.

Before I know what's hit me (although occasionally it's a snowball) it's time to eat again. We gather once again, munch once again and disperse once again. Half of us grab books, the other half head outside. I toss some ingredients in the bread machine and add some more water to the kettle; it will only be a matter of time before they're ready for some bagels and a warm drink. I catch a chapter or two of my book with the Abominable Snowman placidly peering at me through the living room window and Maizy curled up next to the couch, melting with joy every time I scratch her back.

I use the afternoons to accomplish something at least a little bit productive, such as blogging (I've been so hit-and-miss lately!), researching material for a fun Olympics unit in school (the kids are excited to set aside their regular studies for a bit), or organizing the fridge.

The thing is this. I've quickly come to realize that having six people in one house means that the fridge is opened and closed with alarming frequency. Condiment-encrusted items are replaced with jar lids askew (oh, the horrors!), crammed between the eggs and the yogurt (it's toppling, my dear!) and it's just not pretty. I first solved the problem a few months ago by hastily scribbling masking tape labels for each shelf and drawer. This wintery break has given me the extra time to replace them with these cute little labels, found over here.

And then, after sneaking in another chapter or two, it's time to eat again. We gather, we munch and then we kick it into high gear. Time to tidy up, get a fire going and settle in for the evening Olympics. Hooray! I love the Olympics.

All in all, it's a pretty cozy routine. We've even heard that church services have been cancelled, so it looks like the routine will likely repeat itself tomorrow. Aidan suggested that we hold our own services. I liked the idea; Little Miss glared. I wondered if we should go to the 9:30 or 11:00 service. She glared again. I vote for the eleven o'clock . . . with muffins and a fire. Then perhaps we can all join together in a chorus of White as Snow.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

{Turning to the Right}

A few weeks ago I stuffed our library books into The Iris Tote and hauled Aidan and Avery off to the library. They get very excited on library days, and this time was no different. Well, actually, it was different. When we arrived, we saw that some of our friends had the same idea. It was fun to catch up, to see how their children had grown, to see the baby bouncing on big sister's hip. And then we parted ways in the children's section, my kids turning to the right, her kids turning to the left. My kids turning in the opposite direction of the picture books, board books and play center.

Later, Little Miss admitted that she had noticed it, too. "At first I was thinking about getting a picture book, but I decided I wanted just chapter books instead." And so she had turned to the right.

As I watch my kids grow, I'm realizing that there are a great many firsts and lasts in childhood, so many more than I had considered. Sure, there's the first tooth, the last time to nurse, the first day of school, the last time in the nursery. Those are obvious. But there are others, too. The first time they can do an entire load of laundry, all by themselves. (I now have three in that category, hallelujah.) The last time they accept stickers from the guy at Trader Joe's. (Not sure when that was. It passed without my notice.) The first time they stay up later than their parents. (I'm getting old and tired.) The last time they crawl into bed with you in the morning with bleary eyes and wild hair. (I think Little Miss might have joined us a couple of years ago. I forget.) The first time they unload the dishwasher on their own. (I still have trouble finding the ladle from time to time.) The last time they needed help buckling their car seat. (What a relief to see them pile in, unaided! Of course, now one of them is driving. But that's a different story.)

These passages of time are only natural and right. It wouldn't make sense for my kids to always read Curious George books and ask for my help when brushing their teeth. But it's also good to take a minute and reflect. What was good about those days? What is good about these days? For there is certainly an abundance of blessing in whichever phase we find ourselves.

I like to think about these book phases. When my kids were toddlers, they loved to hold board books. They had to grow to a certain maturity in order to be able to handle a book with paper pages, and then they moved on to the short chapter books. Magic Tree House. The Boxcar Children. The chapters grew longer, and they reached for Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables and The Wind in the Willows. Now I can hardly keep track of their choices; I've given up on pre-reading their selections. I just do the research . . . and pray. (Which is not so bad, now that I think about it.)

You may find yourself in the board book phase, wiping little cheeks after lunch, helping little ones climb up the step stool to wash at the sink. Or perhaps you're reading picture books. You help tie a shoe or two, but you delight in your child's ability to empty the silverware and put everything in its place. Maybe you've moved on to the shorter chapter books, and you're encouraged by the genuine help you find in your children. Pulling out snacks for a younger sibling, folding a basket of laundry. If you're watching the longer, meatier books pile up on the coffee table, you're in awe of your growing children who are able to help with dinner or run through the grocery store with a list in hand. You wonder, when did this happen?

Wherever you find yourselves, pause for just a minute and say, "Thank you!" Look for the beauty in this season. For God has put you here, at this time, with these children, for His perfect purposes.

* * * * *

Now, I do believe that it seems only fitting to have a book giveaway with this post! This month I have a copy of Holling Clancy Holling's Newberry award winning book, Minn of the Mississippi. Geared toward ages 9 and up, Holling's 1950s books are intricately illustrated, more lengthy than a typical picture book, and appeal especially to children with an eye for detail and an appreciation for science and history. This paperback copy is in very good used condition, with no tears, creases, marks or odors.

I would love for this book to find a place on your bookshelf! If you would too (and your mailing address is in the US), go ahead and leave me a comment here on the blog or under the link on facebook (one entry per person). In your comment, why don't you mention which book phase your kiddos are in right now and one thing you love about this phase. Board books, picture books, early chapter books, etc. I'll announce a winner next Friday!

Thanks for joining me today, friends. Enjoy your weekend! 

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