Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Springtime Miscellany

Spring is getting away from me so fast. We took a few days off last week as a sort of spring break, and it was so nice. So very nice. I could be done with school right about now, and I'm sure the kids would agree. I told them today we've got to make one final push to the finish line because the end is in sight.

It's been so pretty outside. It is almost always pretty around here, and I wonder why I deserve such loveliness! Even on the odd day when it might be a little cold and glum, it just makes for a nice change. Still, I feel that pretty days shouldn't be wasted. Lately I have felt a pull to get out on my beach cruiser, or to steal away to a new hiking spot or strawberry patch. I've tried hard to set up my week so that we can do a little something along those lines soon.

But today was laundry. I had neglected it a little too long, and before the boys had an excuse for going commando-style I figured it was time to tackle that smelly pile. No wait, I mean mountain. I asked everyone to empty out their laundry baskets by the washer, and they thought it was funny that their piles of damp (shall I say steaming?) laundry made a perfectly formed mountain. A literal mountain of work for me. But tonight it is mostly done. And I roasted a chicken with an abundance of vegetables, which left me plenty of leftovers for a night off tomorrow. I'm thinking that tomorrow afternoon should be enjoyed outdoors.

I'm making an attempt to go back a bit since I feel I've missed documenting so much of our springtime so far. I've had a bunch of issues with my camera since mid-March, so I only have a handful of (mostly bad) pictures to pick form. I've had to pull out my manual many times trying to figure out what has gone awry, but I'm hopeful that the issues are being resolved and I'm thankful to have learned a few technical tricks in the process. I am so not technical, so it's always a little miraculous to me that I'd learn anything.

So anyway, here, a little springtime miscellany...



Strawberries

They have been our springtime treat, and I've bought at least half a flat each week. Still haven't picked our own though.



The ladies at the stand are getting to know us. They are so cute; makes me wish I spoke a little Spanish. I love how they wrap our box in newspaper because it makes me think of a bouquet of flowers wrapped the same way.




>>>:<<<


Olivia's Birthday

My camera just had to start giving me problems a several days before her birthday, and I struggled all day with dark (almost black) pictures. I was able to salvage just a few...


She wanted strawberries for her birthday, and Michael helped me assemble the cake. It seems to have become a sort of tradition on her b-day that he helps me with her cake.


We had a simple little garden party...


And she wanted the mustaches...



A regular lighter wasn't enough in the breeze, and Jon discovered that neither was a torch...




She has some sweet friends who spent the day with us. The afternoon was spent getting into costume and making a movie... the cutest thing. They included the boys, too, which I thought was really sweet. They played games and finished the evening off in the jacuzzi, then a sleep-over.

Thirteen. I thought entering the teenage years would be a bigger deal to me, but now that it has arrived I think it's going to be pretty fun...

>>>:<<<


Boys

They make me want to pull my hair out some days. Well, not quite. Just almost. I find myself laughing when maybe I should be scolding. Or uptight when I should relax and enjoy them for who they are, dirt and bugs and all.

Below, brothers having a conversation on the hammock after they exhausted themselves seeing who could flip the other guy out while staying on...

 


A couple weeks ago I found Jacob with hands full of band aid wrappings, and mumbling, "I'm never going to the grove again in shorts." He's always cut up. And dirty. Even after a shower I am often times scrubbing his face and neck. He tells me, "Mom, it's because I'm a boy. I'm supposed to be like this."

In a way, I kind of agree. 


The boys always have bugs for me. In fact, this one may have come my way courtesy of Jon. I guess it's better than a snake...



Tonight Andrew was drying the dishes with me and proceeded to tell me that he doesn't want to get married when he grows up, and that he really would like to have kids. Ignoring the obvious problem with his wish, I asked him, "Don't you think Dad and I make marriage seem like a good thing to you?"

He answered, "Well, it's all the love stuff," (and he rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue) "...and kissing someone that's not even in your family," (gag!) "...It's just so gross! I don't even like girls. I can't imagine kissing one!" He made a few more gagging sounds and pretends he has chills running up his spine, and then in the same breath, "Oh look! A moth! I LOVE moths!"

Boy-oh-boy, is his world going to change one day!


>>>:<<<


Books

We are always listening to audio books in the car. It's a wonderful way for kids to experience great literature from a young age, and it allows us to use our time well even as we drive. It is purposeful entertainment. Plus, I certainly do not have the time to do all the read-alouds that would be recommended during childhood. Neither could I ever read with the right accents for the given time periods and settings of various books. Audio books are very engaging.

We just finished up Heidi, by Johanna Spyri. I would say that this has been one of my favorite children's book since the time my mom first read it to my siblings and I when I was around 6 years old. A few years ago my mom gave us the hardcover copy that she read to us, and I love it's beautiful images and the memories it brings back. It's a little treasure to me. My kids love looking through it now too.

We just started Across Five Aprils, by Irene Hunt. I have never read it before, but the kids are really being drawn in. We should be picking up a little history in the process.

In my spare time, here and there, I am reading Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, by Paul David Tripp. I recommend it. I'm also reading Boys Adrift, by Leonard Sax after a friend mentioned it in conversation. It is a secular book, but valuable if you can ignore the idea that we evolved from monkeys. I read a review by Al Mohler who highly recommended it for parents of boys. (Another good book for parents of boys is Boys Should be Boys, by Meg Meeker. It's common sense backed up by research, and gave me confidence in my own intuition, reminding me that the "norm" for raising boys is not always best.)

Outside of school reading, Olivia is reading Oliver Twist, and Michael is reading The Magician's Nephew and listening to The Fellowship of the Ring.


>>>:<<<


School Days

We are still working hard, but we're getting bored with the routine of school days. Springtime is the best because we are wrapping up some of our course work and have more time for field trips and projects. A couple weeks ago I took my kids to visit an adobe, then unexpected heat of the day took us back home by way of the beach...




Taking turns taking pictures with me... In every picture Olivia tried to take of Michael, he looks like he just can't wait to get on with his exploration.






>>>:<<<


Fitness

I believe in the importance of fitness at every age, for so many reasons. But I wish I had more time, energy, and desire. It's not easy to get in the habit of it, or to continue regardless of interruptions from vacations, injuries, illnesses, etc. But I keep trying.

The kids and I are wrapping up a squat and ab challenge this week. We've worked up to 250 squats without breaks, and over 500 abdominal exercises. Accomplishing our goal is a good feeling, and so is the muscle soreness because it tells me I'm getting stronger. 

I've played crab tag with my kids before bed a couple nights this week. It's a great exercise for all the muscles women like to tone, and great fun for the kids. I really want my kids to remember me playing with them, the way I remember my mom zooming down snowy hillsides with me.

We have also started another season of flag football, but I wish that didn't involve as much siting for me! 

>>>:<<<


Spring Break

Jon has been doing a lot of traveling recently, so his workload back here is extra heavy. Sometimes wives help their husbands best by informing them they need to take a little time away from work to just be with the family. I love my hard working husband, and I wouldn't trade him for anything, but there's a flip side to always working! Sometimes I have to remind him that-- hello! we need you too! And so we had a fabulous day at the beach with him last week!


My camera, again, was making it impossible to get the right exposure, so I don't have pictures of Jon and the kids out in the waves on surf and boogie boards. I am the odd one out when it comes to owning  a wet suit, so I watched from the warmth of the toasty sand. Later in the afternoon we saw the spray of whales passing by, and out there in the distance among those sprays was a guy on paddle board. I have wanted to try out paddle boarding, but I'm not sure whether I'd be terrified or exhilarated paddling around directly above a group of whales.



We all love going to the beach, but Michael is especially fond of it. This week he has talked about wanting to live on a boat. I don't think he has any thoughts of a wife yet, either. Then again, God may be preparing a girl who would just love to live out on a boat with him. Michael said he would come in to shore just once a week to get supplies.



Jon getting his workout. I did too that day. This particular beach has 131 step up to the small parking area (which makes it a wonderfully quiet beach). I went up those stair 6 time that day, usually carrying bags and beach supplies, and I was thankful for all the squats we had been doing!





>>>:<<<


Encouragement



“Every promise of Scripture is a writing of God, which may be pleaded before Him with this reasonable request, 'Do as Thou hast said.' The Heavenly Father will not break His Word to His own child.” 
― Charles H. Spurgeon




I want to be a woman of prayer.  I am a girl of little strength and lacking in much ability, but I have a big God who welcomes my petitions and requests. I am learning to trust His timing.

And I am learning that God does not despise the one who keeps coming to Him with the same requests. He does not mind being pestered; in fact, it pleases Him. And-- get this-- His is glorified in our asking for big things because we understand that He is a powerful God. So I ask, again and again, for big things from my big God.

Salvation. It is nothing but the ultimate miracle. Plead for it on behalf of those you love. Jesus came to SEEK and SAVE the lost.


Happy spring! May it bring new life!


~Katherine






Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Gift of Suffering

"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."

1 Peter 4: 12-13

"Suffering does not mean that God's plan has failed. It is the plan. Suffering is a sign that we are in the family of Christ and the army of the kingdom. We suffer because we carry his name. We suffer so that we may know him more deeply and appreciate his grace more fully. We suffer so that we may be part of the good he does in the lives of others."


"Even our suffering does not belong to us but to the Lord. Perhaps it is easier to recognize that our blessings belong to the Lord than it is to recognize that he owns our sufferings... A whole host of self-absorbed temptations greet us when we treat suffering as something that belongs to us. This passage reminds us that our suffering belongs to the Lord. It is an instrument of his purpose in us and others. The way we suffer must put Christ on center stage. The Redeemer owns our disappointment and fear. He owns our physical and spiritual pain. He owns those crushing past experiences. He owns our rejection and aloneness. He owns our dashed expectations and broken dreams. It all belongs to him for his purpose. When we feel like dying, he calls us to a greater death. He calls us to die to our suffering so that we may live for him." (Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, by Paul David Tripp)


This was part of my morning read, and worth repeating here as a reminder. Our sufferings--both the aggravating and the crushing--belong to him and were delivered to us with love for a holy purpose. What a relief it is to understand this truth! There is freedom to put away self-pity, anger, and discontentment, to be released from the debilitating weight of it all. By the grace of God there is freedom and power to die to our suffering so that we may live for him.


>>:<<

One of Olivia's b-day gifts arrived late... all the way from Romania. She has been wanting a vintage alarm clock for some time. Thank you Etsy. It ticks loudly and rings rudely, and she just loves it. It looks darling on her nightstand and fits in so well with her decor.





~Katherine

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Thirteen Today

We are celebrating Olivia today. I am so thankful for her life and presence with us...




People say, "Oh, a teenager now!" with either a sense of warning or pity. I don't see it that way. She is pure delight, and it is a privilege to be her mother and friend.


~Katherine



Friday, March 28, 2014

Happy Weekend!



Kinda disturbing, wouldn't you say? 

We're happy it's Friday.






~Katherine


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Waiting.

One of my boys came running in from the back yard and told me to come and take a picture. He said the light was shining through a bottle brush flower in a cool way, but by the time I retrieved my camera from the car and made my way to the back, the lighting had changed and I missed it. I get that-- I know that angles and light and moments shift quickly, but I was so happy they had eyes to see and appreciate beauty. God is kind to give us glimpses of unusual beauty; it is His artistry and it is all around if only we have eyes to see.

So I had him move the branch around in an attempt to re-converge light and angle, but we couldn't make it "glow" again. I snapped a picture anyway, partly to validate his claim amidst the skeptical remarks of his brothers and partly because it was still pretty.


Michael tends to be an auditory learner, so we let him listen to good material via an iPod quite a bit. Not a bad way to do school, or to spend an afternoon...


The handmade hammock was given to us by some friends, and the kids have really enjoyed it. I have yet to test it out. Not sure what my excuse is, but I'm sure I'll like it when I finally do.

I've been thankful for space for the kids to play. It has been good for them and for me. I think the years spent in apartments, condos and town homes really make me thankful for our own space, and the safety  of a private backyard.



The hours of sunlight are getting longer, and since the time change a few weeks ago, so have my days. I can't seem to get a good sense of time and our dinners have been consistently late, which mean bedtimes are late, and then the morning too. The sunlight is throwing me off and I just can't seem to get with the program. I think Jon needs me to get adjusted asap.


>>>:<<<

I've been waiting. 

I've been waiting on something for a very long time, but now that the waiting could possibly end, it's all the more grueling. It has been grueling at other times too, but now it just seems, well, kind of frustrating. 

Because our lives could be changed. Or not. 

And the waiting is hard. 

Last night I looked to see what the Bible has to say about waiting. Reading through those verses brought me to the realization that I ought to be waiting on the Lord, not on opportunities, situations, events, or whatever. Just waiting on the Lord.

It's hard not to place my hope on a certain outcome or circumstance. It's difficult not to hope for my desired plan to unfold. It's aggravating to be in a place where, if only I could, I'd do anything to just get the waiting over with. I've never been good at waiting on a surprise, much less waiting for something I have no clue which way it will go, whether as desired or not. 

I've been waiting and hoping on something to happen. I've been waiting on people and outcomes-- earthly things-- instead of God.

"And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You." Ps. 39:7

It is God who is perfect WISDOM, it is He who is LOVE. He has time and eternity in His hand, planned before the beginning of time. He has my life ordained, purposefully measured out for His glory and my good. And He is GOD.

Oh, that I would remember it and stop fretting about what could be, might be. He is God and He has regarded me. I remind myself again tonight to rest in Him, hope in Him, and wait on Him. 

His purposes, His time. Always perfect.

"The Lord will fulfill his purposes for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands." Ps. 138:8

"Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them." Ps. 139:16

"But for you, O Lord, do I wait; 
it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer." Ps. 38:15

"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, 
for my hope is from him." Ps. 62:5


~Katherine


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Small Talk

It's true, I've never been good at small talk. I'm socially awkward that way, even though I try hard to overcome this trait. I'm like a little kid who wants to hide behind a parent's leg, and squirms with discomfort when forced to make small talk with someone she doesn't know. I like the comfort of hiding behind a strong something. That's why I often search for Jon, who is  comfortably conversing, and I give in to the urge to intrude into his conversation, wedge my arm around his and clasp on for dear life. His arm is like that strong leg. It annoys me when I hear people say that shyness is a form of pride. Clearly they don't get it.

I guess this blog is a safe place to hide behind, a comfort zone where I can make a little small talk with ease. I can show pictures, describe thoughts, and tell of the things we've been up to without having to see some one's reaction, or try to read what they don't say. I just write to remember our days. It's kind of small talk for the pleasure of it, knowing that behind the casual words there are deeper memories and impressions.

So doesn't small talk often begin with the weather? Yes, today was drizzling for much of the day. Jon and I hung out way too late this morning before getting on with the day (one reason I love homeschooling) because the grey weather was so cozy and un-energizing. Jack complained of a sore throat and tummy ache, and by breakfast time he clearly had the stomach flu. All over.

The day's plans were pretty much cancelled, except for schooling the older three. The power even went out for a couple hours. I spent much of the morning and early afternoon next to the toilet bowl with my little boy, stroking his hair and rubbing his back as he hurled. He would rest his head against me, crying, until he'd fall asleep and I'd carry him back to bed. He would sleep for twenty minutes and we'd repeat.

My days aren't always so. No, last week as the kids played outside and I reveled in the beauty of the afternoon light and the blessings all around, as I happily chopped fresh veggies for dinner in a relaxed kind of way, I noticed a small movement from the corner of my eye. Behind the refrigerator, I was pretty sure I saw something peek out... something like a large lizard or a snake! I screamed.

You must understand that I can tolerate the lizards the boys bring to me like prizes; I can get up close to "admire" their finds, and I even pet their little heads or stroke there bellies. I'm fine with small lizards. Not so much with snakes, though maybe very small garden varieties I'll get up close because I love my boys.

But wait. A snake in the house?! No way. Yes, I screamed loudly and sincerely, and the boys came rushing in. They were thrilled with this adventure, pulled the refrigerator away from the wall and out came a loooong Alligator Lizard! These are pretty much like snakes with legs and they have a snake head, in my opinion. I hate snakes, and I strongly detest alligator lizards making their home in my kitchen. I surprised even myself and repeatedly screamed with horror from the counter top. The kids laughed and laughed at me, saying that the only thing better than finding a really big lizard (about 1 foot long?) was watching my reaction. They said it should have been recorded and sent in to AFHV. They were just lucky I didn't kill the thing with the tazer we recently found on our walk.

I haven't been the only crazy lady in our home, either. A couple weekends ago we had a group of people over from church, and in walks a real crazy lady. She just let herself in, totally confident that she was at the right address for a meeting with a certain lady, and she couldn't be convinced otherwise. She was not all there, obviously, but felt right at home with us. One of the boys said if she comes back again while Jon is away, they just might have to tazer her. Oh boy. I have made sure the door stays locked.

We've been gardening some more. Flowers make me happy. They brighten and beautify even the dumpiest places. You could live in a shack, but with a little bunch of fresh flowers, it can be a place of beauty. I have always thought so.



After gardening this weekend, play.





Michael's a neat guy. He knows what he likes with certainty. He doesn't look around to see what other people like and flip-flop on his preferences. He likes old things, unusual things, and unexpected uses for objects. His favorite Christmas gift was a fountain pen, and he has been wanting to create an unexpected/secret case for it. We took him to a thrift store where he found and bought this $3 book...


...and he carved this spot out to store his pen. He was determined to do it himself, even though Jon had suggested a certain drill bit, and was a little regretful that the old book with cool type was ruined. Still, he is very happy with his fountain pen holder.



It now sits on the shelf between the American poems and Dickens. (The thought just came to me now that this would book would have made a good prop for Andrew's St. Patrick's pictures!)


After I took the above picture this afternoon, I looked out the window to find Jacob up and out of his sickbed. In my garden boots, no less. I was glad to see the illness had past.




Here's Andrew's recent gift to me made from twisty-ties. He has decided he doesn't like me to kiss him anymore (but he squeals out laughter when I smother him with kisses at bedtime), or run my fingers through his hair in public. He's growing up, so I savor his little gifts.



~Katherine