Saturday, September 8, 2018

Peter's 8th birthday

To Peter, on your eighth birthday,

You continue to be a joy and delight to your family, as well as a constant source of laughter. This year was the year we moved from Michigan to Kentucky. This year was the year you began to be a homeschooled kid. It was also the year you fully embraced your love of birds, and you enjoy telling people you want to be an ornithologist. Your personal bird ID books is all marked up with the birds you’ve personally seen in the wild. One of my favorite memories with you this year was watching the barn swallows when we were camping at Lincoln Park (Indiana.) Remember how they brought food to the babies, and how the babies would squawk and carry on? Remember how they love to put white feathers in their nests? And remember when those babies got big enough to step out of the nest, and next day when we checked, they were gone?
Your love of nature brings me joy. I love going on walks with you, never fast, and listening to you point out every amazing bird, bug, or critter, and telling me (loudly) everything you know about each one. Sometimes when you need a break from school you ask me if you can “go outside and watch nature.” For your birthday we got you a venus flytrap plant (we only have to wait a month or two to see the seeds hatch. You are so excited!)
We often laugh at the things you say and the way you dress-- why do you pull your pants up so high, and how does your shirt always get so very dirty?  Here are a few of my favorite memories from this past year:

In Michigan, "Mom, it's sunny outside but it's cold. That's Satan tricking us."
“Wow,” I thought, “ this kid REALLY does not like the cold!”

Remember that time when dad was on a health kick and made dinner with fresh cut veggies on a plate, and he demanded every one of you eat a “bell?” As if not calling them bell peppers would trick you!  And there was sighing and fighting and even one puke and we all laughed so hard. And Peter ate three just to show them all. I don’t think daddy will pick that battle again.

Peter: “Hey mom, you know how Eldon and Rainy have double jointed fingers? Well, my butt is double jointed, watch.” *shakes hips like a crazy robot*  (He loves doing this crazy dance to the Weird Al song “white and nerdy.”)

Pete wrestling his brothers yells “get this!”
Marcus says, “peter, it's not get this, it's take that.”

We had a great time celebrating: minute to win it games, ice cream cake, gifts, and even a “family-palooza” on Monday!  

Peter, I’m so glad God put you in this family. May you always rejoice at the works of His hands in nature, and may you continue to grow in faith and love (if you didn’t, that would be lame.)

Happy eighth birthday buddy.
Love, mom

Thursday, August 16, 2018

This is my life now.

Day two of math, and day two of my pert child asking, “WHY do I even have to do this stuff? I know it already! This is for babies!” I’m feeling fiesty, so I tell him I’m happy to stop math class for an informative lecture on the basics of classical education. I move to the white board and explain the stages of learning. I tell him all about memory pegs, and how we never cover a subject just once, but we add to the pegs every time we encounter it. I draw a cyclical pattern on the board as I explain, eloquently, exactly why we do math the way we do math.

My teens are smiling as I sit down to resume our math lesson. “Mom.” They point at the board. “You just drew a poop emoji!”

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

first day of homeschool!

Today was our first day of homeschool for this year! Don't they just look so excited!? :)  They were, actually, and I definitely was.

So, what did we do today? I need to sit down and write about it... partly because I feel like it wasn't that much and WHY am I this tired?!?

Well, we began the long process of establishing the routine. And it's a flexible routine, of course, which is why I always label our schedule TENTATIVE. (Some of the kids hate that!) As an extra bonus, when packing her lunch today, my daughter found an overdue library playaway that we thought was lost forever!  (Do you know those things cost $55 if you lose them? We are NEVER checking one out again!)

We started off with "Morning Time." They are used to devotions in the morning, but this is devotions and MORE (And whatever mom wants it to be, that is.) Today, we talked about our home, and our homeschool. What kind of adjectives do we WANT to define our home and our homeschool?  "Welcoming," one says, and I write it. "You're writing crooked," Seth says, so immediately I add the word "Imperfect" to the list, and I purposely write it slanted. He rolls his eyes and decides to make his own list. I'll post his, because it is actually much nicer than the one I made.

After that we came up with some rules for our homeschool. Again, I'm showing you Seth's better version. We all agree that he has a future in coffee house chalk art.

Here's my version: 

You'll notice there's quite a bit of emphasis on conflict. 
Oh, people... we all have so much to learn just on this topic!

Map drawing is a new thing for us, and to my relief, they all thought it was fun! We also had a picnic with our homeschool co-op group. We have joined Classical Conversations this year and I think it is going to be a huge blessing for our family.

We did some reading aloud (I read to all of them). This is such an anchoring part of our day. I have always loved doing this with my kids, but after reading the Read-Aloud Family I am totally convinced that we will be doing this until the kids leave home.  We are currently reading a fantasy book called Circus Mirandus.

We are slowly getting our bearings. Classical Conversations is so... rich. I feel like we haven't been able to take it all in quite yet. We are trying to get a handle on one level at a time, one strand at a time. It's a lot like drinking from a firehose, or standing under an ancient waterfall with a small bucket!

We're off and running though, and I'm even blogging the mark the occasion! It probably won't happen often-- we'll be busy soaking up everything we can under the waterfall!

Finally, my amazing students, ready to start the year!

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Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup and indoor

Friday, June 15, 2018

lizard love

I’m up at 5am, crying over a lizard.

It’s not really over a lizard, of course. These are tears over death and disappointment and all that is broken in the world; over the way a heart can open up to love and joy and let life in and then death comes and crushes a little spirit, only 9 years old.  He’s too sweet to sit there, hunched shouldered, over a shriveled pet who can’t hold up his head.  He’s too young to hold a box of remains by the side of a hole in the ground. He’s too little to wonder why God didn’t answer his prayer for help when he prayed it. He’s too little to sleep alone after something like this. (So am I.)

Eldon was so excited to be a pet owner.  He bought his gecko with his own birthday money and has cared for him diligently. Just last weekend he wanted to put Mr. Crawley in a box to take to the hotel to show Nana the second she got to town- it’s been months, and he still acts like a proud daddy. He’d build him houses out of Jenga blocks, and he’d carry him on his shoulder. Mr Crawley was his choice for “free time” during homeschool every time.  I remember the proud way he paid for the crickets with his own money; how having Mr. Crawley taught him to love all the reptiles in the world (except the big ones that eat geckos).

And then that night, I knew it was coming. My words to soothe his worry fell flat on my own heart, and I ended up sleeping next to Eldon that night. And I laid there with anxiety about a shriveled gecko and heard to carriage of death rolling by.  In the depths of the night it felt like the carriage was coming for Eldon himself, the little gecko-like boy in my arms. It was coming for a piece of his heart.

After Mr. Crawley died, a  we decorated a box, and we had a little funeral. There were more tears than one would expect for a reptile… many of them were tears for Eldon, really.  “The whole creation groans” daddy reminded us, and we felt it then. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  And I marvel at how the loss of a tiny reptile reminds us that we stand on the edge of eternity, powerless.

Pastor-daddy can’t help but make use of these teachable moments, when the children’s hearts are tender. “Someday you’ll be putting mommy and daddy in the ground, and then … you’ll have each other.. and the hope of Jesus.” And we cry by the reptile grave, clinging hard to each other, and to those promises.

I want to skip this part Jesus; I want you to just come back and make all things new now, just like Marcus said (in muffled words from deep under the covers.)  I am bad at this waiting, this travelling in the valley with the shadows and trusting that the promised land is where you say it is.  And now the dog is snoring; it’s because she’s getting old.  I want to not like her any more, not see her, just close my heart because I know what’s coming. But I also want to go buy another lizard.

The next day Eldon kept holding my hand, pulling me aside with a “Can I talk to you?” and whispering to me about how sad his heart was. “Can we just pray?” he asked. “Will I see Mr. Crawley again?” “Are you sure he was dead? What if he’s under there in the box trying to get out?” Oh baby, didn’t you see his still form and the unnatural way that the life had gone out of him?  

Cry with him, self, and keep breathing. Just love him, and give him Jesus. Where else can we go?

It was not meant to be this way. And we will be limping foreigners here until God makes all things new. But what to do in the meantime? Try to protect a heart , close it off and just survive as long as you can? Or do you keep it open, raw, noticing and loving life in all its forms despite the sucker puch that just came and the other ones that will come?

Oh God restore Eldon’s joy again.
And keep our hearts tender.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

about that village...

"It takes a village," they say.
“I have seen the village and I don’t want it raising my children!” so say some homeschool moms.
Perhaps this is why some people seem to bristle at our choice to homeschool.

We visited our old Indiana village last weekend, oh, how I miss the village. White Creek is a great village. I am so grateful to have been a part of it. Now we breeze in and out and we share memories but we are not so much a “part.” Or we are, but a different part; a moving in and out kind of part.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

I think also of our Michigan village, and the friends we all had in that place. It was nice to be known. It was lovely to have those friends for each child, a people to call on for rides and for help with this thing and that thing.

I miss the village.
But God has removed us from villages past, and we have prayerfully chosen a new strategy.

There are many great ways to raise children. Lutheran schools are one. Homeschool is another. How blessed are we that our children will receive an experience of both.

Being around our former village did, for a moment, make the weight of that which we have chosen fall so heavily on my heart; here I am trying to do and carry that which was carried by ALL of these great people, their teachers, in years past. Who do I think I am doing this thing?  

This longing though, is it not also a longing for community? A real need for belonging, and living out the truth that we are NOT an island nor do we want to be even in homeschool? If there is more than one way to raise children well, isn’t it also true that there is more than one way to be part of a community? Our part will look different but we want to be part. But entering into community takes time, and not much has passed here. It is hard to wait for God to meet these needs.

I hope the people in our past villages know we are thankful for them; for each one who has had their fingers in the lives of our children. For us, homeschool is NOT a choice made as a rejection of community, village, church.

Homeschool, for us, is not a choice against things so much as FOR..

We're FOR reading aloud as a family, and tending a garden together, and letting that millipede inspire the next science lesson. We're for a lifestyle that lets us breathe for a season, for flexibility and travel, for leisurely morning devotions. And we're for the village here in Kentucky; we just haven't found our place in it, yet.

           We're still getting oriented in our new lifestyle- the learning curve with homeschool is huge. I read and research, I celebrate the small victories, and sometimes I take a tearful nap in the middle of the afternoon. (Hey, if they can, why can't I?)  But today we rode bikes to the park because the morning was too beautiful, and I determined to read until they wanted to stop. They didn't want to stop, even 1.5 hours later, and I love that my kids appreciate good books on a lovely spring day. We finally got distracted by a blue jay and the call of their stomachs, and we learned that math is much harder in late afternoon. 
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God help me be thankful for the gifts that have come and gone, teach me to let them go with with gratitude as the seasons pass and to stay whole-heartedly open to the gifts that come now in this season and in this place. Continue to provide for us as you always have: friends for the children, and mentors, people we can know and love, and a place in this new village. Amen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Homeschool for baboons

Home School for Baboons

You shirt is not a napkin
Your sleeve is not a kleenex
The dog is not a football
What will you do to me next?

The leash is not a lasso
Your brother is not a shield
That pancake is not a frisbee
I’ll send you to the field!

That lamp is not a swingset
The car is not a surfboard
Your bed is not a trampoline
The flute is not a sword

The trash is not your food
Bananas are not guns
The trampoline is breaking
We need another one!

I don’t care if he farted
Don’t hit him with a spoon
Mama’s getting tired of you
Acting like baboons!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

These days (Kentucky version)

These are the days (first Kentucky version.)

These are the days when spring seems to have come suddenly- moving from Michigan to Kentucky, we’ve moved away from those last long weeks of cold into the land of blooms and green (blue)grass.  We live in a neighborhood now, where magnolia trees drop their petals on the sidewalks; where parking is tight but people are friendly.

These are the days of visitors: family, friends from Indiana, and friends from Michigan have been in and out almost every week since we have been here.  These are the days when Indiana memories flood with the Michigan ones, when we feel a renewed ache for TWO places we have loved and left behind.

These are the days of feeling unable to keep up with so many long-distance friendships, of email guilt and letter guilt and phone call guilt. And yet these are the days of gratitude, when prayers for friends cover large geographical areas, and even the kids have learned to pray for “our Michigan church family and our Indiana church family and the church in all the world.”

These are the days of asking for God to help us keep our hearts open in THIS place; of battling loneliness and resentment of people with “roots,” of at least one child who has determined not to risk it again, saying “I don’t need friends anyway.”

These are no longer the days of just being “mom and the kids.” We are now “teacher and her students,” and the change is a huge one.  My checklist-making side AND my nurturing side get a constant workout.

I love it, and it makes me want to cry.

The first week I handed out “tentative” schedules, and after day one I realized I wasn’t ready to plan a whole week in advance. Tentative daily schedules followed, and even those were overruled often.  

When trampoline springs began ripping off and shooting in the air and into neighbor’s yards, we had to declare it off-limits, and the pain of that loss is acute.  But these are the days of going to the rec center, of learning to swim, dive, play racquetball, pool, and ping pong.

This house feels very small on rainy days, particularly when some are practicing piano or instruments.  Some children wear earphones just to block out the others so they can concentrate. I assure them this is a life skill that will come in handy as they grow, particularly if they end up both having children and wanting to use their brains as adults.

These are the days of silly grammar songs, nature notebooks, and a Swiss Family Robinson book club.  These are the days of dog training and walks to the library, hikes in new places, and snake identification. These are the days of writing in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, capturing and learning about worms and salamanders, and practicing multiplication facts.

These are the days of new discoveries: the joys of audiobooks, the fishing hole at the park, the inter-library loan system, the power of an evening outing as incentive for us to finish our schoolwork. These are the days of observing just how horribly the can fight, AND how wonderfully they can love each other.

These are more days of “where’s dad? He has to be gone again?” We cheer him on from home while he studies full time and works full time and then some.  He begins his studies at 4am and camps out in the library for long hours. Working at Home Depot as a small-engine tech, he comes home home sore and dirty and tired from accomplishing so much.  Despite all that, these are still the days of early morning family devotions, when daddy steps away from his list to sit with us, to anchor us in the Most Important Things.

Those are the Words that keep us.

Show me your ways, Lord,
   teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 25

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


What is true here?
I ask this question when my head is spinning and I just need to sit in something solid.

We have bitten off a LOT. Homeschool day three is under my belt and my head is spinning. I love it, and also, it makes me want to cry. I want to fast forward to the day when I have thought through all the things and I am organized and relaxed… ok, more relaxed at least, relaxed enough to be confident and think clearly. Is that an unreasonable goal? I sure hope not. I don’t want to feel nuts quite like THIS all the time. Surely there is a better system.

But, self--  you must remember the lesson God has taught you a million times- there is no system that will fix your tendency to yell when you’re overwhelmed, or their bickering, or fix the fact that you truly are too small for this job; that you need His help and his forgiveness and forgiveness from the children, too. You don’t get to outgrow “weak and loved,” not even in a new town with a new vocation.

So many loose ends. Where will he work? Where will I work? How is any of this going to work? Will we ever be “known” here, will we find real friends? Will we ever have time to see our old friends?  And what of the kids? They need friends, too.
Under it all is this: God, you remember us, right? Have you taken us out into the wilderness to die?
Of course He hasn’t.

But I miss my old people. And there’s not enough time to call each one and catch up a bit; hardly time to send a text. We go to church and I tear up, missing them, praying for them.  I like seeing them all on facebook, but it’s also hard- seeing those pictures makes me want to eat pancakes made by the people whose voices I know and love, and hug the toddlers I knew as babies.

I’m throwing myself into homeschooling- yes, already. I know, that’s crazy, but even more crazy were those days of unstructured time in a new house with six kinds underfoot while I’m unpacking boxes they’re saying “Can we go to Indiana? Where are the batteries?  Where are the legos? I’m hungry. Can we go swimming? Where are the bikes? I’m hungry again.” We needed structure sooner than we needed that last box unpacked.

My kids are awesome people- it has been fun to rediscover this. I get to see them lean on each other, especially in those socially difficult situations--  being the weird new family rollerskating with the Lutheran School where nobody relaly knows who we are or how we got invited. (Dana invited us, for the record.)  They fight hard, but they love well, and it is so good that they have each other during this huge change.
Homeschooling makes me come alive almost like writing does. I get excited about schedules, goals, organizing systems. I love hearing their stories! It turns out the boy who gives us the most fodder for stories is also great at writing them. And I LOVE reading to a captive audience, especiallly when we stumble on an unfamiliar word and we get to define it and put it on our board for future enjoyment. The words! I love them.
They also drive me nuts, those words, especially the ones that say “Where are the markers?” and “How do I print again?” and “Do I have to practice my piano?” and “Can you help me with this for a second?” (times a hundred)  and “Mom can you come here for a second?” and “Marcus just called me an idiot!”
I miss silence, and afternoons with Rainy.

I read this to the kids at breakfast today, and we’re all trying to be like Marcus in the snow, receiving today’s blessings and not letting our souls go chasing after those things not given.  We mostly fail, and yet, God is enough.

What is true here?
The there was a special choral performance at church tonight. Resting in the words, in the stabilizing truth of this poem by St. Teresa of Avila

Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you,
All things pass away: God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who has God Finds he lacks nothing; God is enough.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

love. today.

My shoulders are soggy from the loving tears cried on them- the hugs, the gifts, the food, the words- we are leaving this place saturated with the love of God’s people. We are exhausted, loved, grateful.

Our kids are learning how to grieve in public. I guess this is a good thing? My daughters were comforted by women they hardly know as they all hug-cried in the bathroom. My son begged to go home when the tears finally came for him- I didn’t let him, and he soldiered on- and tears turned to distraction, food and fun with his friends one more time.  Let them lift you up, son. Let them love you while you’re here.

When the tears come, some run towards others, some hide.  I think those who have someone to hug also have someone to hold them up at times like this:  God’s grace through human arms. I hope my kids are learning this. I felt this, all day long.

“Maybe the love gets in easier when the heart’s broke open,” says Ann Voskamp, and I think she’s on to something.  It is hard to live with an open heart at times like this. But I do not regret it for a moment.  It was a battle, everyone- my heart broke leaving Indiana to come here. The temptation to make it a fortress of concrete was strong- but God didn’t let me pour the concrete, and I’m glad He didn’t.

We were spared the  kidney stone crisis on this Sunday, and God upheld my beloved so that he finished well. I love being married to this man, even on days like this.  It is a special talent, to be able to preach in a way that you speak to the grief we share as a church family, without making it all about oneself- pointing to Christ, giving all of us hope in His love.  His voice shook, his love for St. Peter’s poured out his eyes and made all of our eyes run. 
As if that wasn’t bad enough! At the end of the service, as he prayed and bowed with his brother-pastor Alex one last time, they hugged before they walked down separate aisles, before they parted in body (but not in spirit.)

Surely the Lord is in this place.
As heart-wrenching as this day was, I end it with gratitude, and with hope. Grief shared gives us a chance to love each other in new ways. As we face our powerlessness over the passage of time and the sovereign plans of God, we are humbled, yet strengthened as we look to God for comfort and help.

“The LORD watch between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight.” Genesis 31:9
Keep your hearts open, dear friends in Christ, to God and to each other.  And thank you- to all of you who shared your hearts with us.
With love,

Thursday, February 22, 2018

the time is short

I’ve been spending much time lately just tracing over the memories of our life here. I know the sadness of this season’s end will eventually be replaced by the gratefulness to have had at all. But I also know how to sit heavy with the weight of never-agains, how to linger in the rocking chair (and on the volleyball court, and in the sanctuary, and in my garden, and everywhere else these days!)
Tears that mourn the never-agains will turn to tears of gratitude. 
"Nothing in this life lasts forever." How this sentence seems to be shouted in my ears all day, every day! How many lasts have gone by and I didn’t even notice? Who came to our last cookout? What sprouts broke the ground first last spring? When was my last field trip with the kids?  Did I take any pictures of our last zoo trip, our last boat ride?
Sometimes the seasons change imperceptibly; sometimes suddenly. This change seems so sudden it is almost violent. There is not enough time left for lingering and remembering and all the just-one-more-times I want to do things.
It reminds me of the time I said goodbye to my husband went he left for Iraq. There wasn’t enough time then, either, and even the time he did have had to be shared with others who loved him. I remember trying to enjoy every moment, trying almost to stock up on him, as if I could just fill myself up with enough of him so as to make the parting less painful. Just one more kiss, just one more quiet moment, and then I’ll be satisfied, and I’ll willingly let him go.
That didn’t happen, and it won’t happen this time, either. It will not be my feelings that determine when it’s time to move on. It will be the date on the calendar. It will come too quickly, before I can get every one-more-time in. I won’t be ready, and I won’t have enough of Michigan to satisfy me for a lifetime, to make me let go cheerfully.
The seasons change, and I cannot stop it. And so, I linger. I try not to demand more than I’ve been given; I try to take each day for the gift that it is, and I try to trust God with the future. 
But it’s hard. 
I’m sad. 
So for now, I'm lingering a bit with the people and the places I love. I'm letting myself think about the never-agains, and I'm taking the time to put pictures in an album. And when the kids cry, I stop packing to give a hug, and I say it again, "It's ok to be sad."

Evening and morning, sunset and dawning,
Wealth, peace and gladness, comfort in sadness,
These are Thy works; all the glory be Thine!
Times without number, awake or in slumber,
Thine eye observes us, from danger preserves us,
Causing Thy mercy upon us to shine.

Father, O hear me, pardon and spare me;
Calm all my terrors, blot out my errors,
That by Thine eyes they may no more be scanned.
Order my goings, direct all my doings;
As it may please Thee retain or release me;
All I commit to Thy fatherly hand.
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