Endless Gifts June into July 2020 # 111-150

I seem to have lost my kept draft where I jotted grace gifts bit by bit- and so now, I must begin again. So fitting for lessons I am personally learning. To begin again.

111. talks with Todd where I unearth some of the deep and find myself free and steady

112. Morning Pages and {sometimes} Evening Pages, and despite my endless questioning, I do see the progress, the purpose, and most of all, the way I’m held together while I pull so much apart.

113. The virtual Black Barn through Paper and String and kindreds and gardens and books and poetry and prayer and beauty found there.

114. David Austin roses, and how I can’t wait to cup my very own; there is joy in the anticipation as I feast on the beauty found elsewhere

115. The {upgraded and brand new} monitor now successfully working on the erg. I will soon venture for my first row; it does feel like a voyage. I am nervous; how many meters am I actually rowing? Oh well. On, on. {since I wrote this, I have rowed thousands of meters (and kept a record of them) and been drenched in sweat; the monitor pushes us  forward!}

116. Work with my darlings around the property; plantings, and mulch, and weeding, and trimming, and even washing. I do enjoy watching their interactions.

117. Two new needed beds for children, set up and settled

118. The Misfit box full of so much goodness: cilantro! cherry tomatoes, kale, squash, cauliflower, lemons, the best apples they ever tasted, and more.

119. hot, sweet coffee, foamy and good

120. the music teachers who keep showing up amidst technology blips and the sometimes strange time warp of these days

121. my son involved with his school’s (which was my school’s) IV- and all that actually means for me down in my soul. Chapter Camp{ish}.

122. They way they are still able to connect with their college people, and the friendships they build

123. Friendship for my rising high school senior that is good and true

124. The go ahead for foreign langauge and French classes, and we both sigh relief; and I see her almost hidden happiness. She can do this.

125. The way they chortle their wonder when they find peonies on Minecraft

126. We lost Todd’s grandfather. Todd made it safely to PA and back in a day, to be a presence, and honor the man who held such a huge role in his life for so many years. He refused any of the rest of us going, and I know there might be plans for a Memorial Mass at some unknown point in the future. The lack of closure brings tears to my eyes. I think about Easter and how we heard his voice as joined the Zoom call with Grammy via phone. How lovely it is to hear his signature laugh and jokes still in my head. Death is an abyss I do not understand, and this has always been true for me.

127. Black 8 1/2 by 11 Journals and little 5 by 8 inch ones, too

128. An SAT date on the calendar {again}

129. Six of my people, finished with their 2019/2020 school year (mostly)

130. Fresh squeezed lemonade on ice, while on the porch, with the Maryland sky; and all the spring greening and the breeze wafting through; the air sweet, the neighborhood, quiet.

131. Their faces over the porch rail, and the head scarves for my little girls, so darling! Most of all their friendship and quick conversation and sweet plans for summer. We cannot wait.

132. The slow way I am learning to be free; but free, I will be.

133. The clean, clean kitchen and my hands still wrinkled and tight from being deep in hot water and soap

134. The peonies, Shasta daisy, coreopsis, carnations. zinnias, vincas, pepper plants, and {future} roses that make up my at-home cultivation. Somehow, calling out the names one by one endears each living treasure to my heart even more. And I remember her. I remember dear Sharon who spoke each plant’s name as though it was a dear and kindred friend. Her gardens were (and are) magical. The columbine, forever pressed upon my mind. One day, I will have columbine, too.

135. Working in the sunlit kitchen alongside Nathanael, making platters of veggies and salad; while he washes dishes, and we enjoy the companionship of music we both love.

136. a drive with Todd to pickup Walmart groceries (possibly our new normal) and good conversation

137. a cozy desk set-up with beloved books, candles, journals, Bible time resources, my own chair, and more. Every day grateful for its beautiful, inviting space.

138. Tall, slim golden candles on twin birthday cakes sprinkled with gold stars and bedecked with my very own first attempt at home-made marshmallow fondant. Roses and stars (and hearts).

139. Time in the grass at eventide to watch them catch fireflies, and she catches a wee one and holds it gently. How far she’s come.

140. Summer Mummers and a swim afternoon at Courtney’s: my mind filled with beautiful images and joy.

141.  a little desk set-up for my girl, giving her space where she could see no space and she has her own flowers and computer setup and a rapidly growing collection of darling knitted creations.

142. a sudden jolting awareness of an injury that requires extreme measures to heal (no dancing for weeks, physical therapy); it is a gift because it is a pause. It is a gift because it is protective. It is a gift because it allows me to dig deeper into the quiet, still depths I need and crave and am driven toward so desperately.

143. All the pizazz Asher brings to whatever he does: a watermelon carved expertly and “presented” appealingly on platters for small sisters’ birthday dinner- only the latest. He can jazz up anything, I do believe. And, O! how I love it.

144. The way the struggle to count gifts reveals my lack of Presence in my life; my lack of attention and calls me back to that place where I can see once more.

145. Callouses on both hands, and we sit side-by-side and compare our “rower hands.” We callous in different places, and he says: “It’s just how it is; if you row, you get callouses.” Matter-of-fact and accepting and he even wears gloves. I run my finger over the hard roughness, tracing the somewhat tender outline. Somehow, I have one on my thumb. Well, I’m glad I don’t need silky smooth palms. I’ve got three good ones on one hand and four on the other. And they mean I’m showing up. I’m showing up, and I’m not stopping, even when it’s hard, even when I have to fight for it, even when I don’t want to, and even when, as others have shared with me, it feels awful- because sometimes, it really does.

146. Picture book challenge, and I try hard to gather my little girls every day as we endeavor to read every picture book in our house. And, — it is my favorite time of day. Flopped on the bed, ensconced by pillows and wee, small silky heads. And I get to share my favorites, and they get to find their favorites, and I act on something that is deeply important to my heart. So far, they treasure Miss Fannie’s Hat and, so do I. So, do I.

147. I give up my beloved desk for a week, and when I am back at it, with my candle lit, and music soaring forth, I breathe a little deeper. Grateful for this space.

148. A birthday trip for my girl and the way friends wrapped us round with beauty, comraderie, brave faces behind masks. A magical table under the arms of trees with truly the most delicious lunch I could ever imagine. Chipotle, potato waffles, lilies, and fans to ward off the hot sun. Her playlist and our car talks. I love inviting my teens to share their music with me. It is a window into the heart and such a way to build relationship. I have always known music’s power. Step-by-step, I learn them this way, too.

149. Several (!) walks around a North Wales neighborhood, WITHOUT a brace, WITHOUT having to stop, WITHOUT my back cramping. It was like a miracle; it is forever an Endless Gift. Remember, and keep getting on that rowing machine- even when it’s hard; even when it feels awful; even when I have to fight for the time. It works. I told a son I don’t row because I like it; I row for life.

150. Endless Gifts in pictures: June into July 2020:

The Father Daughter dance that didn’t happen, but the great picture memory forever; birthday with Lanie; twins birthday; we love to find hearts in the world- chip heart; fabulous birthday cake for my parents; Joshua’s Lembas bread; Abi’s sweet desk setup; Abi at PT for the first time; Zinnias and Nathanael; Micah and the wee girls getting ready for MaryLu’s visit; small girls who took the photo with the ray of shining light; my arms full: God fills arms with babies, with beauty, with love, with life, with zinnias!!!; twins’ birthday cakes; heart pancake; young man strolls in in my 1992 track and field shirt, and it becomes him; Maryland sky;  June Mummers bonfire; bracelet heart; Abi and I, girl trip 2020.

 

The days slip away; I struggle to attend. I fight battles in my mind. I fight sorrow in my heart. I traverse an ocean of fear and uncertainty. I try to be brave. I try to navigate with whatever adept skill I can summon.

I count gifts, and I’m grateful.

I say to my children: who do I love? who do I love? and shyly, sweetly, bashfully at times, they say: me, me, me. Yes, darlings, you. You forever. And you, and you, and you.

{and you}

When I can’t find my way, when I am gone under: under criticism, disapproval, misunderstanding, harsh judging, under anxiety, abandon, apathy, and hurt: the Way finds me. It is good to be found and to know myself, in the candle-lit, quiet time where I am free.

-Rebecca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes from Quarantine #7

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It’s been a long while since I have written here, and it is no accident that this post states #7 when #6 can’t be found. Notes from Quarantine #6 rests in my drafts where it will stay for now.

Today, I wrote to a friend. It was the first time I have written personally in, what I recognized, has been a really long time. And, with a sudden unveiling, I realized how utterly fatigued I am with the long enduring uncertainty of the pandemic.

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I am fatigued. Today, I missed two virtual appointments. The appointments were lessons for different children. Teachers are often changing schedules; I can’t keep up. One I re-scheduled on the spot; the other, an hour or so later (utterly forgotten until I was contacted). I set loud reminders on my phone that blare at me to help me remember. It helps.

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As I was writing my friend, I revealed how long everything is taking me. It is taking me days to reply to emails, to make appointments, to make decisions. Everything is complicated, and showing up on a screen is sometimes hard, too.  I dread it. I don’t want to see the doctor through my computer camera; I don’t want to have to sign the COVID-19 release form for the dentist certifying the appointment is essential. It’s not. I don’t want to take the bunny to the vet or figure out physical therapy for my daughter during COVID-19. I am wearied of virtual music lessons. I can’t attend church.  We have all become masters of camera angle, zoom backgrounds, and interacting on devices. This is my reality in 2020

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And today, it is July 14th, which- in 2020- is actually the day before the tax deadline. So that means I have been experiencing a “second” tax season for a few weeks. Todd was quick to minimize it- saying that this year’s tax season was not “bad” around April 15th. No, it wasn’t- but it was still overtime and every weekend and all kinds of uncertainty with new and changing legislation and business loans. It was intense phone calls and uncertainty. It was long and drawn out and here we are again. Tomorrow, D-day. Lord, bring us through.

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The children feel it. One commented that he wasn’t the only one to have a tax season birthday this year. And, it was true. He voiced what I had been feeling but hadn’t spoken to anyone. We celebrate wholeheartedly anyway. Just like always. And every year, as everyone grows, it does get easier.

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In Maryland, so far, {mostly} we are holding steady. This means we are and have been opening up cautiously and until today, really, I don’t think there was much of an increase of cases.  As I wrote to my friend, I was sharing all the things we are doing as far as pandemic protocol, and I realized how strange it was to write it out, how “normal” it felt, and how much is a part of our routine(s). Shoes at the door, showers, masks, Germ-X, wipes, and more.

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I watch carefully around the country; I watch carefully, the world. I put my phone aside; I stop checking news. I huddle in close to write, read, pray, and row.  We all take Vitamin D. I try to get out to the garden; the zinnias are blooming. They bring daily joy. I buy more needed face masks- two we were given have already been worn out with all the wash and wear. I strip clorox wipes into halves, into thirds, as I use them, to make the container last.

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Sometime back in March or April, I spoke to another dear friend on the phone. She told me her household was just taking it one day at a time. They were getting through day by day. Her words instantly settled me and brought a calm. She didn’t have to figure out childcare for a month from now or how she would manage her full-time job at home for weeks on end. She just had to live the day at hand, and so she did.

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And so do I, and it is a monumental comfort when things feel impossibly unsettled and vague (college move-in dates, fall semester, community college class for a senior, the SAT {will it happen, will it be safe? what happens if it doesn’t for my homeschooled senior who has no standardized test score?}, college admission season, children’s activities, and so much more with no clear answers.) I don’t know when my sons will move-in to college, or even if they actually will, but I can wake up and attend to tomorrow- and there is peace in that reality, for sure.

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2020. Tax season in July. An unpredictable pandemic. Day by day, even though I have a long delay, I do manage to mostly get the things done.

How are things for you?

~Rebecca

 

Notes from Quarantine #5

Week of May 18th- 24th.

We are no longer shelter at home, but are now safer at home.

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Fields of buttercups at our local park

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May 19th, 2020- Our oldest son went back to work full-time at the local grocery store. It was a venture into new territory, and I struggled with many aspects of this path. I admit to being somewhat comforted when he came home and told of all the coworkers he knows from different spheres of his life when he was in high school (former co-op and christian school team-mates, etc). Lots of young people working there right now. Thus far, all is well.  I also felt relieved when I learned they are checking temperatures daily, have plastic shields put up, and of course, everyone is masking. It is a different world at this time.  We (our family) seem to have a solid protocol established for handling everything.

A few of our other older children/young adults settled into their summer job which is childcare for family.

May 20, 2020- I social distanced (– note this was the first time I had seen any person not my own immediate family “in the flesh” since my brother stood on my porch with masks in his hands) on the deck with one of my dearest friends and got sunburnt to a crisp- after which I then shed like a snake for days, to my great disturbance. We talked non-stop for two and a half hours. I just soaked her in. My friend, in the flesh. I think about when I can see her again, and I wonder what value I bring to her life. She brings so much to mine. Our children basically stood or sat in a social distanced circle for those hours and visted, too. They were heckled a bit, just a bit, by Todd who came out wielding some kind of yard stick to measure social distance. We have all been alone for too long!! That same day, Asher took his last AP exam online. He is almost done with what has felt like(perhaps, with what has been) the longest spring semester ever. Almost done.

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May 21,2020. I had a bonafide quarantine meltdown.

I think it was the perfect storm of everything comprising together to render me a ball of circumstantial distress. I had a mighty (weeks long) battle to get a routine prescription refilled, aggravated by quarantine confusion.

I rallied; I made {angry} phone calls; I made decisions.

I let some people in to the hard and the ugly- Always a good first step for me.  By the next day, the prescription was at my door. Thank goodness.  The melt-down day was a very bad day.

Over these same days, the rowing machine was broken apart all over my bedroom floor- and getting fixed, and I faced the reality that it might not be usable for a week. Then, I decided to just have Asher just put it back with the parts we had. It worked.  By Thursday, I was back on the machine. I realized how truly mechanical Asher is- especially when later in the week, he also helped Todd fix the lawn mower. We had hours of good conversation while he was working painstakingly on the erg, too. So, there’s that.

My week was so off, I only attended one music lesson out of the 7 I “should” have. Thankful for the big kids who stood in for my place for those other lessons. Grateful.

May 22: Todd’s wonderful 94 year old grandfather died after an undetermined illness. PopPop John was married to Grammy Helen for 73 years; my mind falters at the numbers. We walk the journey of this loss during the pandemic, and the way it is shaping memorials, visits, and saying goodbye. It is a yawning chasm made more so by uncertainty.

May 23, 2020. Micah moved out of his dorm, finally. He made the trip with Todd, and they had to follow multiple protocols and restrictions and directions to get it done. I could see the peace and relief and closure resting on him when he finally returned with the rest of his life that he had left when he left for Spring Break. A dear friend of his was also moving out of her housing in the time block after him. She shared that it almost felt like the apocalypse: rooms left just as they were as if people would be back any minute, only they wouldn’t, while other rooms were completely emptied and cleared out- standing in the doorway clad in a mask while campus appeared abandoned (so empty of people). Such an interesting and strange time. Her description touched me and brought me sorrow, too. Micah reflected about how confident they all were that they would be back when they initially left. But, of course, they wouldn’t. And then they couldn’t get their things for an extended period of time due to Pennsylvania’s guidelines with the shutdown. There is relief to truly bring spring semester 2020 to a close.

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Quarantine hair!!

That same Saturday, I also visited with a neighbor on my porch for hours, too. We sat social distanced apart and talked about doctors and medicine and COVID and dance and homeschool and so much more.  Our daughters visited in the yard.

I find myself awkward as I try to navigate what is acceptable and what is not; when to wear a mask and when not; and so on.  It is difficult to know, except of course, when shopping in the grocery store or any kind of store for that matter.

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On Sunday, we worked in the garden. I had a peony dream in my heart, especially once I truly learned the plants can be grown in large pots. My dream compelled me to take what is one of my yearly traditions: shopping for flowers in May. I wasn’t sure if it would happen this year; I usually go with Nathanael. But, go we did, masks and all. It was the first time I had driven a car since March. True story. I came home with three peony plants and potting soil.

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Todd, Micah, Jonah, and Josh rebuilt our garden plot to get ready for zinnias; Nathanael made chili with Abi’s assistance; Asher helped fix the mower and mow the grass; I potted peonies and wrangled with one of my garden pots. It was a good, full day, and the reward of the work is sweet.

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Abi took an outside dance class in a parking lot on Sunday, too- her first one. The dancers were spaced six feet apart (or more) on yoga mats.

I speak to my sister on the phone on Sunday, and I share how I feel like I can’t commit to anything for next year, almost anything at all. She feels the same. We had to pull out of a major comittment for Abi by not signing next year’s contract; I know it was the right decision and I feel so much peace, but it still falls around us strangely like a scarf that doesn’t belong.

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Pippin explores the outside-world!

On Monday (today- Memorial Day), we took a short family walk at a nearby park.  We didn’t walk the designated way on the trail because we started at a part where the tiny little sign was not visible. We had no idea. It all seemed okay, though. There were not many people there at all. No one wore masks. I could only walk half the loop because of my knee. It stinks, but I decided we will continue to make these trips to the parks around here over the summer and I will just do the shorter walk while everyone else can go longer. The spectre of surgery looms over me.

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Perhaps it is true that life is picking up again in new and different ways. Nothing feels normal and everything is different as we stretch out into these new spaces and wonder how it will ultimately shape itself. The virus looms; its ultimate impact and wave of crisis unknown. What will be?

 

 

Endless Gifts #59 – #86

Breathe. Begin counting. Write it down. Cup the days.

59. The first step is always to begin. Begin again, and again, and again.

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60. A custom hot cocoa made by a rapidly growing big small son, crafted just for me

61. The moment when I realize that the “little voice,” the “insistent thought that wouldn’t leave,” “the direction” to hop on the rower to rehabilitate my knee (and possibly my life) is actually and truly a real, a very real thing. In some ways, it was an awakening.

{actually hop is not exactly what I do, I realize, as I read this over- it is more like gingerly place myself and position the sore knee(s)}

62.And the difference is… I commit. Thinking on that long and hard… the commit. And how sometimes, no matter how much I want to, I can’t- and sometimes, no matter how much I don’t want to, I do. Is it timing? Is it Grace? Is it Will? In some ways, it is. But I know when there is no going back. 

63. Rowing to recital video clips (rowing in general) ( the music, a silver lining to a broken monitor with no replacement in sight because of coronavirus.) {Can I just say it again? The erg. Truly, an endless gift (during a pandemic)}

-and-

64. years of Opus recitals, and I remember again why it is all worth it

65. orange ginger mint tea, hot and steaming, again, again, again

66. the building of a life-giving morning routine; I read, I research, I take a small step; I journal, I row, I tidy (a bit); I struggle with myself- and then I realize it is a big thing, and it takes time. One small layer at a time. Do not despise the day of small things.

67. days to sleep with nowhere to go

68. the sweep of the fan on the heat of my skin

69. the reading life, how I love it

70. the way a rough little poem sprung out from the dark, literally

71. working from home

72. the first blooms on the lilac from my grandmother’s plant, and the promise of their grace on the poetry party table

73. a poetry party in which we all participated and all the poems shared from an original work to funny to valiant to serene to dramatic to serious (but I forgot the lilacs… so will have to bring them in for something else!)- and in which I learn a day later, that there were actually *two* original works performed at the party; there is more than one parent poet in this family. 🙂

74. pick-a-party diversions

75. the peaceful hush falling over the house during the rainy afternoon when the children are happy because they’ve participated in something meaningful and so they play in harmony

76. A DUO call with my mom; I watch her face across my screen. There is one moment where I see her: I see myself, I see my sister. We are in the turn of her face, the glint of her eye, we are in the crispness in her laugh as she and I share a moment of solidarity in COVID frustration. Confessions of less than perfect moments where we admit we have been found to talk aloud to phones and screens, to tvs, and computers “shouting” an opinion or a dissenting view in the face of all the pandemic unknowns, shifting news, and so on.  It just bubbles up and out, and in that, we laugh together, indignant and commiserating. We are not alone. Even more, we are in comraderie and in relationship. The realness of the moment captures me. Her brown eyes sparkle, her face- animated. I imprint her face on my mind, her laugh, her animated expression. I miss her.

77. a morning I wake up full of every negative thought racing through my head like a river and… in the bathroom, literally stopped short by a counter melody singing out to me:

 78. “I will build my life upon Your love, it is a firm foundation; I will put my trust in You alone, and I will not be shaken.” The words don’t turn me around, but I keep them close. I keep them through the day. I listen again, and again. I listen while I row. I listen while I type. I think about that great Love and what it means, and what it is…

79. On a day, I admit a struggle- a day I reach out and let the lowness be known, and am answered swiftly with prayer and Scripture and solidarity and grace and comfort and hope

80. On the same low day, there is a knock at the door; there is a doorbell ring. We all freeze. We aren’t expecting anyone. Anyone at all. There is my brother on the doorstep. Masked and all. And in his hand, masks for us. I can’t stop looking at his face, listening to his voice. All week, I had been thinking about how I was feeling desperate to see faces and had pondered standing at the edge of his driveway to call to him on his front stoop. Especially when  I saw photos of my PA family social distancing while “visiting.” And there he was. In the flesh. We talk. We talk awhile. We can’t stop talking. We both talk about said PA family and how we felt seeing those photos and stories. Same. I don’t think I will EVER take in-person visits for granted again. There is something about the physical presence of a person, their warmth, their life, the look on their face, the lift in their voice.

(note, I miss you all- you know who you are)

81. And what is the lesson for me, on my low, low day- with my hair in disarray and my wreck around clothes? I ponder. There is a lesson, and I am thinking hard on it

82. my darlings, who need me, and in whom is so much rich treasure and joy

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83. these days with all my children at home and they way each view the world from their own unique perspective- what they bring to my life; what they bring to us all! I watch the photo slideshow on the big screen (years of our family, a minute a time) and my heart hurts- the way it is often wont to do. How much changes and so very fast? I gasp. What is a family, I wonder? And these children who take so much of us, our very life, to grow up and outward and on. I see the face of the man who has changed along with me, along with all these rapidly growing children, over all these years, and suddenly I see us, a family. He and I. My hand in his.

84. The way I find myself lost, only to be found in Him. Blurry vision comes into focus, and I am grateful!

85. art lessons with Nana; these are a gift

86. This song:

 

 

 

 

 

Pick a Party: Stay-At-Home diversions: Notes from Quarantine #3

The days are getting a little bit thin here at times; no where to go from each other and days on end of enduring. Overall, every single person is still going strong with school and work and lessons- so, it is not really that we are at loose ends…

But, some days have been hard; it is easy to feel low. I forgot what day of the week it was earlier this week; Todd got VPN back after a couple weeks of trouble, and announced it to me suddenly and out of the blue when I peeked in at him in the home office. I stared off vaguely into space; he looked wild-eyed and alert. What are we coming to, we wondered. The random blurting made us laugh.

I took a Coronabingo Challenge: I “bingoed” two whole rows and some additional squares. Sadly, cleaning was NOT one of those.

This week I also stayed up almost all night reading a book. An act I do not intend to give way to again. I rued the day. It was partly a combination of very good, page-turner book and partly my driven OCD where I just needed to finish the book. I didn’t finish it. It was over four hundred pages. I almost did. I am not proud of this escapade. But I note it here for posterity and the journal of these unusual days. In some ways, for me, it was a true COVID-19 experience. I do love the Kindle App on my phone.  I stumbled through the next day (obviously), confessed to sundry and all, went to bed normally the next night, and woke up the next day feeling much better.

Overall, I think this week laid me low a bit; I think it did some others, too.

In our house, tax season just “ended” — note: strangest ending we’ve ever had- and not really ended yet- perhaps, just a pause? Who can say. Yet, the days are beginning to take a different shape.

One hard thing for me, that marks this Covid_19 season, is my knee. Actually, both knees. I have an injured left knee, and I have fallen twice on it during this shelter at home season. Both times, on wet floor while wearing my sneakers. Both times, where my foot just skidded out from under me, and I couldn’t stop the slide. Both times because of coronavirus cleaning procedures. The most recent time was this past week, and it was a doozy. Plus, I have very painful arthritis that “acts up” in both knees. My injured knee is much worse right now, and I am icing it while employing heat for the dreaded arthritis. It stinks, and I think it is definitely making me sad.

In other news, among the many children and adults sheltering here: some of us are, sometimes, fractious. Actually, as I reflect, that might be too generous a word. We are all feeling a bit of interpersonal strain right now. It is a good time to remind myself to love well and generously; be extra patient and kind; watch for the one who is struggling and/or hurting.

Friday, the irritability factor was rising, and I, ever so much NOT a doer, and instead a dreamer, was at a full stop; the seeping paralysis was  weighing me down. I struggled to engage. As the unhappy discontent began to swirl more and more rapidly,  I begain brainstorming out loud. How could I create a “friend party” at home? We didn’t really land on anything. I am not sure how to maximize Zoom.  But then I thought: we could make a list of at-home parties and choose. Pick- a- Party was born!  Together, we brainstormed ideas and  made our list. Some of these ideas came directly from my little girls with no help from me! I snipped them and folded them, placed them in a hat, and decided to have a child pick out of a hat. We will pick two a week until Quarantine ends OR begin the list again.

These simple ideas have brought a lot of excitement, joy, and diversion to our home and family.

Friday, we had a Chalk Pastel Art Party, and tomorrow afternoon we will have a Poetry Party. Word has it we will have a personal recitation of an original work titled “A Lament of Physics.” I can’t wait!

General notes: Tidy up the party area and decorate a bit (wildflowers from the yard; a pretty platter; make lemonade).

*Some of these party ideas are more suitable for young children (i.e. my 7 and 8  year old daughters; others are suitable for all (including my college-age children).

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Party Ideas:

Chalk Art Party

Set up art supplies. Gather at the craft table and choose projects 1-3 projects (we did two) from chalkpastel.com. Afterward, hang them up in the family room. Enjoy a pretty snack platter and lemonade. Discuss the art. Have everyone pick their favorite piece from their own work. Parent picks their favorite piece for each child.

Dress-Up Party

Set up party reception snacks. Everyone picks a character and creates a costume from whatever can be found around the house. Come to the party dressed up; guess the characters; enjoy snacks.

Game and Snack Party

Set out snacks all along the counter and create game stations

our list: Mario Kart; Minecraft; Arms; Mario Odyssey; Forbidden Island; Labrynth; Rocket League; Boggle; Barton card games

Rotate through game stations. Enjoy snacks!

Holiday Party

Pick a Holiday or Season: Valentine’s Day, Harvest, Winter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Easter, Spring, Summer

Prepare matching holiday snacks and drinks and crafts (hearts, pumpkins, snowflakes, sparkler art, etc); Gather holiday storybooks.

Enjoy seasonal food, crafts, and stories.

Music Concert Party

Prepare the concert room. Set out cookies and lemonade. Everyone dress up; everyone bring a piece to play on their instrument for joy for all; low-key and fun; anything is allowed but all available are invited to participate.

Pamper Princess Party

Set up “pedicures”; paint toe nails, brush/do hair and makeup; use hand lotion.

listen to soothing music

Picnic Party

Set out a large blanket in the backyard or a large room in the house (if raining/bad weather). Bring snacks, little sandwiches, drinks, and stories. Hang out together at the picnic, enjoy the company and change of scenery.

Poetry Party

Set out cookies and lemonade. Tidy up family room and set out flowers from the yard to create a nice atmosphere. Everyone brings 1-3 pieces of favorite poetry to share with the group (does not have to be memorized). Enjoy the recitation and then the reception!

Popcorn and Movie Party

Put a big blanket on Mom’s bed. Bring a big bowl of popcorn and setup a favorite movie. Hang out and enjoy!

Relax Party

Everyone chooses their favorite snack or drink; everyone heads to the family room to relax with a movie, book, game, etc.

Tea-Time Party

Mom gathers favorite illustrated poetry books. Children set out their tea set and snacks. Play soothing or classical music. Enjoy a refined tea time!

 

Maybe you can think of some party ideas to change it up at home a bit? We all need a diversion from time to time. 

I’d love to hear them,

Rebecca

Notes from Quarantine #2

 

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Celebrating our 21st anniversary, at home, behind closed doors on April 18th. Thanks to my sister for the sign idea and to Melodee for crafting it!

These Quarantine Notes are combined as I never finished what I started last week… As I write (and finish this post), Andrew Peterson is reading aloud to us and his warm, familiar voice is a comfort as we hear tales from Tennessee and tales from the Wingfeather Saga; we laugh with joy and delight-it is grace!

Week three of Quarantine (Palm Sunday) found us all gathered round the table again for Sunday dinner- and expressions of gratitude abounded that we are all together. It’s true. While there is so much uncertainy and upheaval (especially for the college boys), it is a gift to live this time out together- something we are all grateful for during despite loss of routines and face-to-face friendships for some-

and I am also incredibly grateful for two things: 1.) the fact that all my children can be home under our roof at this time.  2.) the fact that I do not have a senior  in any level of schooling; it is tricky with the junior (high school)- he doesn’t have an SAT(all cancelled); didn’t get to visit colleges like we hoped; doesn’t have all his courses set for next year yet; and so on. I was on a Zoom call with my sister who also has a junior. Zoom- first for us! But so good to see her face to face. We talked about the AP exams and the SAT and of course much, much more. I shared with her some information from an email I received from the College Board. She eventually found hers; it was hiding in the SPAM file. I wanted to cry as I read through it; so much is at stake. I wonder what Asher’s college admissions season will look like next year and what additional hurdles we will navigate.

But still- grateful to have a whole more year with him and not facing the loss of all the end of a senior year entails. Yet, no matter what I or anyone else is facing during this current season, I know that we can find courage to walk forward into the uncertain future.  Things look very different, and they might continue to look different. We will walk through it together.

My older boys still have plenty of time ahead to build relationships on their college campuses and make good progress in their programs. It is strange how much has changed and shifted during this time. They are able to keep in touch with different friends and study partners. I am glad. Having the rigor of college under this roof is an interesting dynamic. I am, of course, as always- proud of them.

Does this unusual time and the pandemic find you gathered together or are you scattered?

We finished out the long drawn-out bout of illness with the last member getting sick and finally better by the weekend before Easter.

Then it was Easter and Micah’s 20th birthday. 20. It is amazing and hard to believe. The strength of love never eases; it grows and shapes just as the child man before me! We started our poster tradition the year he turned 7. Taping a banner across our doorway in North Carolina. 13 years strong.

It was a different Easter, and I missed some things that are dearly important to me- mostly the way I try to craft beauty around my Easter table. We had a lovely dinner that was part Micah’s birthday dinner and part Easter celebration. There were empty tombs for breakfast for the children; there were baskets of chocolate for their delight. Even Todd and I had a basket this year. That was a happy provision, and I was surprised by how much it filled my heart. I will be continuing with baskets for me and him from now on.

I combined photos and there is Easter hair and chalk pastel art; birthday and read aloud photos; dance workout online;  finishing To Kill a Mockinbird with Abi- it was a victory!!;Easter Sunday; Golden Light; music practice; a wee black dragon tucked in to bed being sung to dreamland sweetly; life with all 9 under this roof; March blooms; and April’s golden light; Catan; and more.

 

And now, here we are: the third weekend in April. The urgency of news reports has slowed a bit, but still, there is something new every week. On Saturday (April 18th), masks were mandated in all public places in Maryland starting at 7 a.m.  Today, I sat outside with my son. A neighbor working with some men at the house next door was wearing a mask as were the men. I thought to myself how strange these times are and how I never would have imagined such a time as this. I wonder what it will be like to be at the store masked along with everyone else. Within a few seconds, Micah remarked about it, too- and we pondered the way of the world as it currently is. I am grateful for the masks! I feel like it is an important safety measure; but it is still such a different world than just a short time ago.

We have been making use of grocery delivery and contact-less pickup. It has been going okay for the most part. We plan ahead. We often do not get everything we order. We are stocked up on frozen vegetables and frozen berries. I am grateful.

I feel very distrustful of many things. We are washing and wiping down groceries; we will mask; I consider this virus airborne; I do not think that we are in a safe place (as far as virus progression) in my state – and ready to open anything up yet; and more.

These are different and unusual days. I am eager for online classes to be over. Just about a month left for one of the college boys, a bit more for the other. A few weeks more for most of the online high school classes. I am hoping there will be some relief with the shift this will bring. I think about how we stay inside the four walls of this house day after day. It is remarkable the amount of learning, online streaming, and activity going on in each and every room. It can feel constricted at times. We all feel it. How could we not? We are a busy hum of activity and learning. It is good, but it is challenging. Everyone is on Vitamin D; there are some people who do not see the light of day outside this house regularly. It is hard to believe, but it is true.

We started a weekly Duo (new technology for me!) storytime with Ama. Wonderful time for the little girls. Very thankful for it. Along those lines, I do not feel like I am doing a good job at all connecting with people or keeping in touch. I am not sure what to do about it.

This is the week I also felt impatient. Very impatient with varied online instructors needing particulars with this and that. I feel tired. I feel like I do not want to engage. I press on.

This has turned into a very lengthy epistle. I will try to keep it much shorter from now on. It has been a challenge to try to compose the words with so many interruptions.

I realize how I must battle to pay attention; to apprehend the grace and goodness; to walk in peace; to cup the days.

Day by day,

Rebecca

Notes from Quarantine #1

We are ending week 2 of Social Distancing to protect against Coronavirus in Maryland.  Pictures show stacks of books I have high hopes to imbibe.  Republic of Tea for days at home and – I have since learned- for doctoring up with Vitamin C for sickness immunity boosters. A family favorite chicken soup recipe to nourish sick ones, including me. The view from my bed where I rest as my son puts a mug next to him on his bed. A family that has fallen sick by ones, twos, and threes in a very unexpected way considering that we have been basically home and no where else.

 

Week 1 found me scrambling to adjust to one son going online for college while another was home on a slightly extended spring break. Decisions were being made with literally lightning speed and changed rapidly from one day to the next. On one memorable Thursday, life was changing every two hours until I collapsed into bed just before midnight and learned my homeschool review was postponed (it was supposed to happen the very next morning) just as I was getting ready to try to go to sleep. Before the end of that day, we also knew we would have both our college boys home with us for the duration.

In the midst, it seemed like almost every activity we participate in went online at all different times, and I found myself off-kilter trying to keep track of it all.  Very off-kilter. I got times wrong. I even forgot one lesson altogether. With my smaller children, the Zoom life requires a lot from me. However, with older children, I have all different people zooming in different rooms in different classes and on, on. It makes for very unusual times. It makes me laugh, but it also makes me sigh.

Suddenly, I had all of my normal responsibility  plus much more.

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In general, I gather around myself reading material to nourish my mind, my life. As public activities began to shutdown, I gathered more choices, secretly feeling a delight that I might get to immerse myself in ideas and words and life-shaping thoughts. Then, I couldn’t figure out how to get a bit of reading time regularly partly due to responsibilities/partly due to stress/partly due to anxiety.

I wonder- is it merely the presence of books- or their content that brings me comfort? Because I have certainly gathered a mass around myself, and yet, in the past week, I have struggled to have the centered headspace for the quiet concentration needed to read. Ultimately, I realize it is the words themselves. I am better for time spent with a poem, a chapter, a verse. My mind settles and calms and centers. I find the deep stillness that is at the heart of my soul, that I need so desperately and am for which need I am so often oblivious.

Why is it so hard for me to know (and validate) what I need? Is this an Enneagram 2 thing?  Note: I don’t even know if I am a 2-

Sometimes, I wonder.  

Week 1. I began a practice of three poems a day.  O, how it settled me. Lingering in the language and allowing the beauty to fill me and permeate my mind-  I had hopes of tucked in days building a rhythm, reading, homeschool days, more rest, relationships, Yet, I began a battle with anxiety that scattered my mind and my focus; it has been a dark tunnel and a very much UNwanted companion.  Todd, still going into to the office and working long, long hours. Trying to maintain the normal routines of our homeschool family with the addition of new routines. It was a bit of a bobble.

Week 2. Week two arrived and with it a surprising illness stealthily slinking through our family.  My practice (three poems)- while not entirely by the wayside, certainly fell to inconsistency, as I myself got sick- and to bed, I went with a brain too fatigued to handle much of anything. At this time, we are pretty sure we are merely traveling through a spring virus, but it is no small thing to journey through illness during a pandemic when you have hardly been out of the house and can literally count the days patient zero could have been exposed to anything.  We have been so healthy this year- hardly sick at all. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we went down with so many children with fevers and congestion. O, March. You are definitely putting February to shame.  Todd, now working from home as precaution with illness at home. More changes in the day -to-day routine.

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Grocery shopping for our family of eleven has been an interesting experience. Our most recent venture (just yesterday) was more hopeful and comforting than prior trips as we were able to get produce and frozen veggies and so much – pretty much everything- we need. Keeping two weeks’ worth of food in stock in a huge task with our family size.  We buy giant bags of Mahatma rice at BJs, and we have not been able to find them for a few weeks there. We have never before considered even having more than one of those huge bags on hand at a time, but these days, I think we would have a spare if we could! Especially as we watch the bag on hand diminish each week.

It took us about the two weeks to adjust to the amount of food we need to make for our meals with our two grown sons home full-time, too; I think we’re good now.

One day at a time, for us, right now. The hopeful words of my mom as she reported on her shopping provided the wherewithal for Todd to try the stores again, and it was a good venture. Today, it looks like two or three children will be recovered by tomorrow; hopefully me, too. We have been riding the waves of tax season and with all the new legislation into effect because of the pandemic- the power of those waves has picked up a bit.  With this, there are a lot of unknowns- an extended tax deadline and more.

I try to take time every day or almost every day to tune in to Sarah Clarkson on Instagram Live. I never catch her live. Instead, I listen later when I can. She reads a poem and a psalm for Lent. I feel like a small child as I soak in the absolute beauty of the ten-minute respite her reading provides. She teaches me about beauty and about hope. She teaches me how to analyze poetry and apply it to my day-to-day life; she uncovers inexplicable meaning and beauty. I adore it. This is, I think, the second year she has offered poetry readings for a season. She shares glorious photos, too. Her brother Joel Clarksonalso uses Instagram to witness beauty and truth. His photos and words are a treasure not to be missed. Such grace.

We (me and the children; Todd when he can) have also been tuning in to Andrew Petersonevery night with unabashed delight as he reads aloud from Volume 1 of his Wingfeather Saga (which we all love so much). What a gift this is!

We enjoyed The Gray Havens unplugged Thursday night, too. They streamed from YouTube and Facebook Live, I think- took requests and answered some questions. Such fun and delight to enjoy their music live. These are precious gifts in these unusual and sometimes difficult days.

My older children are experiencing large adjustments and transitions. I am trying to be intentional in my care for them: supporting their learning; acknowledging their adjustments, feeding! them enough and regularly; speaking hope into their futures.

Speaking hope into all our futures: our hope is in Christ, and He is Enough. The days are dark and scary. They are, and it is not foolish to regard it so.

My only centeredness is found in Him; I hope to settle in more fully. With more intention. With more love, joy, and peace. And, I won’t minimize. I won’t minimize the worry or the struggle or the pain or the fear. It’s real; yet, Christ’s power is real, too. I look for Him in the midst of these dark, constricted days.

I spoke to a son about creating rhythms of rest and delight in his daily routine that now involves only home and nowhere else. Build a routine that enriches and delights to provide breaks from the monotony and the feeling of walls closing in.

I need to, too.

Some poems for comfort:

Wendell Berry: Peace of  Wild Things

Cowper: God Moves in a Mysterious Way

If by Rudyard Kipling

My mind has scattered out like the tumbled pieces of a puzzle. But little by little, I can build it back again. One step at a time…

 

There is a sense of wholeness when the pieces all align.  I can build myself back to wholeness through Christ. We have had some drizzled days of gray and even a rocking, wake- from- sleep Thunderstorm. Days of sun are coming; Easter is coming. As everything changes and roils without, Christ remains, and He provides what I need to “dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” (Psalm 37:1-6 NASB)

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and [a]cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.

It is His goodness I want to celebrate.

How are you finding grace in these days?

-Rebecca

November into December Endless Gifts #17- 57

I am keeping grace gifts with intention – the gifts that startle me alive and I cup my hands to Him as receiving a gift and as an offering…a regular practice of Thanksgiving…

17. side by side with Nathanael, calculating semester grades over Thanksgiving break- and now just days before he is home with his first college semester under his belt!

18. earnest talks with Micah, hoping to impart all that is grace and good, and I write words. I write words and I share them. For him. For always.

19. darling Lanie on the doorstep, and texts with Courtney all the while

20. a bit of lovely sleep

21. Asher, 17- and some good time together (in my favorite- the big white van with a soda for him and a coffee for me)

22. more twinkle lights than ever before and how I love them: on the mantle, on the cube; around the nativit(ies); on “baby ficus(es); on the banister

23. Todd and his patient work with the artificial tree lights; the decoration boxes; the banister; the front door; and more!

24. the gorgeous anticipation of the 2020 powersheet planner; all the cultivate products are so bright they bedazzle my eyes- but then I find myself infused with motivation! I have hopes for transformation. Step by step and day by day.

25. haircuts for boys; haircuts for girls

26. Christmas candles flickering in the windows

27. driving home from a Saturday tutoring session and feeling all the searing pull of conflict in  myself- and letting gratitude rise as I reorient to let each session fuel me to always give the best of my mind, my heart, my attention, my intellect to my own children (the students under my very roof);I need this reminder; I need this fuel. (and as days go by, I actually need to figure this out- and how to do this. It could be that I can’t.)

28. recognizing that it is perfectly okay to honor limits within myself and boldly stating that is true even when my limits make no sense to people around me (now I just need to figure out how to practice this in the day-to-day)

29. the cold slant of sleet and the glow of lights and warmth and hot mugs cupped

30. my littlest daughter: such a bright spark; and us, in the most extroverted circumstances causing such deep cringe for me and the strong desire to escape- and then-

a look down to the small girl at my side- blue eyes aglow, pony-tail a quiver, taking in all the excitement and ready to take it all by storm, too. And the way she stands- confident- violin tucked under her chin, bowing with finesse and plays in a varied ensemble before her very first crowd.

31. a set of quiet time (Bible time) resources that feed my soul with truth and beauty

32. realizing that if I don’t plan for it- it won’t happen – and renewed plans for homecoming and exiting foods for weary students. Have to up the breakfast game around here…

33. taking a moment to appreciate the tiny, beautiful boxwood Christmas tree bedecked in lights and red trinkets at the Festival of the Trees… and then the added 12 months of bouquets from The Cutting Garden that was included in the auction. Swoon. I can only imagine the beauty. The little tree was an ornament of living beauty in the midst of much (very creative) artificial tree offerings- and its life was a breath of joy to me and a promise of hope and a welcome feast to my eyes.

34. the struggle with weight and body; is gratitude the first step to turning around?

35. reflections on the Eagle Scout journey and the way it helps me breathe more deeply and look up and out

36. my oldest two (at home) out to a Christmas concert with dear friends; their happy faces and hearts and the warm memory of it all knit deep for them (Courtney, Lanie, Erin)

37. preparing for a winter recital- and my twinnies each playing two songs on an instrument- and it is such a twin moment for me, I take joy.

38. Aymee’s love notes and all that they are speaking to my heart; help me listen, Lord

39. Todd- and an outpouring that I had kept in and he says, “If you need to externalize to let it go, by all means, do so!” and I could cry with the relief of those words, because clearly, keeping it all inside didn’t achieve that end. And also, just knowing he is open to listening and helping me unpack all that I can struggle with…it is relief.

40. the golden, glory moon on 12.12; I wrote a bit at 66 books about it, but it doesn’t do justice. Also, my two college boys were unable to see it due to cloud cover and the way it was rising. And, I think on my ability to behold and be stunned in the luminous pink and gold rising: O Maryland, you nestled a bit into my heart. I still feel the yawning ache in my belly when I close my eyes and see that holy, huge orb rising with every flaming color and gold.

41. the first work Christmas party with Todd and a pondering; enjoying him and then the next week preparing a platter for the office of all our Christmas goodies. Happily, well-received.

42. tucked in with Little Women on Amazon Prime

43. his fruit salad and her way of helping me get it “all” done

44. the realization that just because it is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t right- and that focus and determination and hard work are worthy companions toward vocation goals and desires; I watch my young adult children face challenges- and I realize it is not in the giving up; it is in the hunker down and forward press- and I am speaking to myself, too. I am changing my mindset about a lot of different things.

45. a winter performance with Opus for small girlies and with bigs and my mom and Nathanael home for winter break, I mark the day in my heart

46. Winter Solstice and Summer Mummers Winter Version (a casual, friendly performance where anything goes: tin whistle, recorder, violin, viola, piano, whistling, ukulele, flute, vocals, drama, and more) and it is the most blissful, perfect night of fun and joy because it is free and relaxed, and I shake my candy cane colored jingle bell so hard a bell flies free across the sanctuary: we’re the mummers- and we cheer!! Abigaile and I can hardly breathe from laughing so hard and keeping quiet.

47. and the way Mummers creates space for me to play music with children; a cello duet; a flute duet… and I breathe deep and feel it all through my body. I want to play more with these children. It’s time.  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. It doesn’t have to be pretty to be worth it. I’ve wondered long why these children struggle to play together… and I wonder if part of that secret ingredient might just be me. Help me, Lord.

48. My boys home from college- O! the gladness of this heart and the unending grace of hugs. Final grades post and they breathe relief.

49. Christmas Eve and Christmas morning joy and cozy days tucked in and Disney Plus (a gift that keeps on giving from grandparents and all the movies of childhood)

50. a word for 2020: AWAKE and Powersheets prepped and ready and (so dear to my heart) friendship support;

51. “Mock” New Year’s Eve and my annual Lego Hobbit Game Playing with Asher; and Elenorah and Asher playing soccer with controllers- and she gives him SUCH a run for his money! She just barely loses. At one point- she’s winning. How we laugh and cheer! Group Minecraft where they all play together on a world- and Mellie- she’s here; she’s there; she’s everywhere.  And Catan. Catan forever…and toasts all round and the youngest man (11) says, “to the next decade! 2020!” Indeed! Some love the sparkling grape juice; some hate the sparkling grape juice. O, the memories!

52. the clean kitchen and the way it greets Todd and I in the morning: a gift- and the son who offered it: the best gift.

53. a first driving lessons for two boys at one time; and Todd takes them; and they all come home- and I watch the three as they regale me with the (hilariously) funny stories of this first attempt- and really a milestone; and I think back to all the years ago- with those darling babies- that first Christmas with Asher just under six weeks old. And here we are now- and O, the personalities flame so bright. And the joy of the full-bellied laughter. Nathanael on one side; Todd in the middle; Asher on the other. One (apparently) careful and cautious; one- the methodical, organized teacher; and one, foot on the gas/hand on the wheel- away we go! SO funny. Starting off in a school parking lot on a Sunday afternoon. The best. My boys. Mom of boys forever.

54. two dance/ballet performances at a nursing home and I think of all the stories embodied in each wheeled resident: all the loves, the hopes, the dreams, the real-life dramas, the sorrows, and the pain. Their faces are all so different, and I can’t help but wonder about the lives that led to this place. It speaks to my heart; and it speaks to my life. I watch how much joy the dancers bring, and I especially watch the joy the little children bring. I know the gentle elderly remember their days of ease and energy; I wonder what memories are held in their hearts and minds. I ponder what kind of person I want to be when that time comes for me. How they enjoy the dancers: the holiday spirit is infectious.

55. Time with Todd for Christmas: a dinner out to make plans and talk- I bring issues/ I bring thoughts; and another day- a Christmas movie, us two- and it’s Little Women (at my earnest request/appeal)- as I dig in deep to enjoy one weekend off from working (sort of). The best gift for us. Time together. {I think} And for us, there are still always so many surprises with each other…these moments where I realize: he never knew. He really never knew. Or where suddenly, this full-fledged understanding dawns for him and after missing the mark of each other- suddenly the arrow zings home- and there is clarity and connection where there was a foggy, great divide.  That happened this Christmas, and in my heart- I laugh with joy. There is no bitter sting, only joy and some incredulity. In the best way.

56. surrender and receiving; the way I am going to walk it out this year

57. Barnes and Noble with my boys; and hot tea and talks; and Spotify

58. The night I woke up and found him (at 4:30 a.m.) navigating physical difficulty all on his own; I must have heard him; and with a mother’s unerring instinct- I went. And then awake, I can’t sleep. I sometimes still watch him breathe.

58. This song:

Anchor of My Soul by Josh Garrels- Deeper Well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Things They Say (and do)

Note: the rapid pace and change of technology takes my breath away. My little children do not know a world without AI (in the form of Google, Echo, Alexa, and more);  they can ask for music, jokes, weather, and more… it is such an interesting world.

You have to tell Google “Good morning!” when you go downstairs tomorrow- a dear, tech-savvy son informed me. He had an impish grin on his face. “You’ll get a surprise!”- he said. This son has been tech-savvy for years, and this morning, I pondered all that he brings to us with this ability and gift. He has always been my “go-to” person for anything computer related and even machine related.

So- sure enough, when I came down, I got ready to greet Google. The first thing I actually did was tell Google, “Merry Christmas!” because I knew he had set it to greet us back with “Merry Christmas” and play “The Boors head Christmas Carol” which is a comedic delight for my children- which it surely did when I asked. And Jonah and I, who were the two in the kitchen at that moment: laughed and grinned. Nothing like a face-splitting smile on a foggy, cold Monday morning threatening to overwhelm with December.

But then… I called to Google (who has often complimented me on my nice way of asking! too funny) “Hey Google, Good Morning!”

Google then proceeded (programmed) to greet my son (who was not home- away at co-op) by name, call him a handsome devil, and inform (in detail) of the weather, the temperature, and more. Might I add that Google speaks in a lovely British accent! Oh my, how we laughed and laughed. And then…

(which I knew was coming, but still nothing can prepare for the impact)

Morning Has Broken (one of my favorite hymns and a song that has followed me from my childhood) began to stream out of the speaker. It truly is my favorite morning song.

I sat on the chair and cried. I cried because I suddenly felt the impact of all those years and days of Morning Time when I shared my heart; I shared poetry; I shared stories; I shared songs- and now– they are (sometimes) sharing them back to me.

I cried because the song is so precious to me and ministers to my heart, mind, and soul in every way.

I cried because I have been struggling, struggling so greatly in this season to remain faithful to something so simple as Morning Time where I share my heart; where I share goodness, and beauty, and truth; where I share the life-giving words and music that the children will take with them out in the world they will enter. It is so important, and I feel such an intense battle for its place in my day and our life.

I cried because of how much I love this son and the way he brings humor to leaven the day along with (one of) my favorite song(s). I love him so! I cried for the laughter and the beauty and the fierce battle and the loss and the gain. For it all.

And he is handsome- but I wouldn’t call him a devil! (ha ha ha ha!)

Morning Has Broken forever, and this dear son in my heart. And just a note- that this joy combined with Jonah in the kitchen making pumpkin bar for our family- which was also incredible to come down to and find in the kitchen!

HOW BLESSED I AM!

-The Things They Say And Do!

School Plans for 2019

If you are someone who is overwhelmed by someone else’s “much,” just scroll on by as they say- I know I can be, so no worries. I actually always, always hesitate to ever write posts like this because it can all just be too much. The writing process is helpful for me though! As I was writing this, I realized several key details I need to attend to! So, onward and no hard feelings if this isn’t for you! 

On another note, it is now the next day and we are enroute to a brand-new college move-in day. Somehow, we are all loaded, and I know the fleeting completeness of us all together again.

I realized not everyone homeschools to college, and there are different paths to reach the same goal: sons and daughters reaching full potential in Christ; in life-

However, this is how we do it. My two high school students are respectively heading most likely to a four-year college and the other to start at community college based on their personal goals, potential, and needs- so that is my context! The best thing I can say is that I always plan with the end in mind- and even now am positioning my eighth and sixth grade sons for their futures.

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Right now, as I type these words, Todd is heading home with a car full of our loves, bringing Tall Son back from a summer working at a Christian Retreat Center- and shuttling three siblings with him who all spent some hours together (with Todd) at Hershey Park.  What a day! Here at home, I cooked; we cleaned; Cookie Bar was baked by a young master for all to enjoy- but especially big brother; and I finalized homeschool planning.

The planning steps are involved, and planning begins months before the year begins- it is a process! However, in summer, I prepare Goal Sheets for our oversight. I attend oversight orientation and pay fees. I prepare a shopping list- or rather I tweak and perfect a list I have been curating for a good, long while-  and make purchase plans. I find resources and print documents. I prepare chore plans and meal plans. I create checklists and a schedule/daily flow. I review every out-sourced class and corresponding required texts and supplies/resources and make sure I have a plan to secure what is needed.

Little by little, piece by piece it falls into place.

It feels like a good time to share plans for 2019 as I balance on the cusp of college launch week(s).

Note: these plans are (somewhat) subject to change!

Junior (son):

Bible (Daily Scripture; Selected Readings (from Sonlight Core 300- Paul Little: Know What You Believe and Know Who You Believe along with selected C.S. Lewis texts)

Math: Honors Precalculus online with Liberty Tutorials (Foerster)

Science: Apologia Physics with Lab at co-op

History: Early Modern Great Books at co-op (Honors World History- Early Modern on the transcript)

Spanish 2 : Rosetta Stone (hopefully- he took Spanish 1 at The Potter’s School- not sure how this is all going to go- working on it!)

Technology: AP Computer Science A with Pennsylvania Homeschoolers

English: AP English Language with Debra Bell’s AIM Academy (Liliana Serbicki)

Fine Arts (half credit) : piano

Elective: Personal Finance with dear friends

and soccer, scouting

Sophomore (daughter):

Bible: still finalizing

Math: Algebra 2 at co-op

Elective Science/Study Skills: Health (first semester) Study Skills (second semester) with The Potter’s School

Combined English and History: US History and Literature at co-op

Additional English support: Wings to Soar Academy intervention programs: Infercabulary; Exact Path; Reading Plus

Foreign Language: Latin

Fine Arts/Phys Ed: Violin/Dance

Elective: Personal Finance with dear friends

Eighth Grade (son):

Bible, History, Literature, Science, English: Heart of Dakota finish Res- to-Ref/start Rev to Rev

Personal Reading

Vocabulary: Wordly Wise

Spelling: Phonetic Zoo

Math: Honors Algebra 1 with The Potter’s School

Music: Viola/Piano

Art: HOD/ and appreciation

Phys Ed: Tennis/Basketball, scouting

Sixth Grade (son):

Bible, History, Literature, Science, English: Heart of Dakota finish Res- to-Ref/start Rev to Rev

Personal Reading

Vocabulary: Wordly Wise

Typing: Mavis Beacon

Spelling: Phonetic Zoo

Math: Saxon 76

Music: Flute/Piano

Art: HOD/and appreciation; planning for some lessons as he has a special aptitude

Phys Ed: Tennis; hiking, scouting

Second/Third grade (daughter a):

Bible, History, Literature, Science: Ambleside Online Y2

Language Arts: The Good and the Beautiful; All About Spelling; Copybook

Math: The Good and the Beautiful

Art: Appreciation

Music: Cello/piano

Phy Ed: Dance

Second/Third grade (daughter b):

Bible, History, Literature, Science: Ambleside Online Y2

Language Arts: The Barton System; Copybook

Math: Right Start

Art: Appreciation

Music: Piano

Phys Ed: Dance

First Grade baby girl:

Bible, History, Literature, Science: Ambleside Online Y2

Language Arts: The Good and the Beautiful; Explode the Code; A Reason for Handwriting

Math: Horizons/ The Good and the Beautiful Level 1

Art: Appreciation

Music Violin/Piano

Phys Ed: Dance

What are your plans for 2019?