Friday, June 30, 2006

Dancing to a Rhythm

I've slowly been trying to work more of a schedule, or what I've thought of as "the 'S' word" into our days and weeks. I know it's important for the kids to have a sense of routine, and it helps me too. I always feel more efficient when there's structure, like when I was in Bible school or working. I knew what was expected of me, and when, and I could fit the other things I needed to do into the framework. As a Mom, and the manager of my home, I know that apart from the main things, like 3 meals, Daddy coming home from work, and bedtime, the hours are open for me to fill as I see best. Unfortunately without a schedule being imposed on me I'm often pretty unorganized don't manage my time well. I think of things that need to be done and start in on something only to walk into another room and start something else, then wander over and check my email, then think of a phone call I need to make before smelling a diaper that needs to be changed. By then I've completely forgotten what I started with!
I know this isn't a good or efficient way to be and I've been taking small steps toward getting my home and time more organized. A couple people who have inspired and encouraged me with this are Kendra at PreschoolersandPeace and Amy and Stacy at ReformingMama. (Thanks, Ladies! And keep it up!) I've gotten back into the practice of planning my menus and shopping lists so I'm not faced every day with the what-to-make-for-dinner woes and running to the grocery store way more often than I should. I've started assigning certain chores to different days of the week, making the whole thing more manageable. I've been filling in time slots on my mental schedule for a while, but fearing to write it down lest it become something I constantly strive for only to fail.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I opened up the calendar program I do my menu on, and wrote out a daily schedule. The whole time I told myself that this was only a framework, not a slave driver, something we could use to structure to our days, but not something I would plague myself with guilt about not sticking to perfectly. And you know what? It's been really helpful. I don't even look at it very often, but having taken the time to write out a sort of "ideal day" made me think more about the way I want to order things.
Another thing that's been helpful was something I read while researching Waldorf dolls, which I'm getting ready to make for my kids and some wee friends. One of the Waldorf philosophies is that kids thrive when they know what to expect in their days. I absolutely agree, and that's part of the reason I've been trying to be more scheduled. But the way this author spoke of it really resonated with me. Instead of structuring her day by the clock, she wrote of having a daily, weekly, seasonal rhythm to life. I loved this idea of Rhythm instead of Schedule; it seems to me much more the way we already function. Every night before bed we read a Bible story, pray, cuddle, brush teeth, and then Daddy tells a story. Some nights this happens at 8 and other nights 8:30 but the important thing is that we do all those things each night. My kids don't wake up at the same time every day, and I'm certainly not going to drag them out of bed just so we can eat breakfast at 8AM. (The exception, obviously, if we have to be somewhere and other people are counting on us.) So we can get started at 7 one day and 8 the next and still have the same rhythm to our day.
This way of thinking seems more natural to me. Spring always arrives, although the trees may blossom a month earlier or later in any given year. We can count on the first frost, but it may come in September or not until November. A woman's cycle isn't always 28 days; it may be 26 or 32 or a little different every month, but it's still a cycle, a rhythm. Tides come in and go out, but the waves differ in height and intensity. A baby grows in the womb for nine months, give or take a couple weeks, and rarely arrives on his or her "due" date. The sun and moon always rise and set, but at different times throughout the months and seasons. We eat, and are filled, and become hungry again, sometimes two hours later, and sometimes four. The point is, life is predictable, but only to an extent. God set in place the times and the seasons, but there are fluctuations within that framework. Things happen when they're ready to, and we can never fully know how they'll go, not with the weather or the baby hidden in his Mama's womb.
I feel freed by the thought of having more of a Rhythm and less of a Schedule. We can have "the norm", the things that happen, one after another, but I won't worry if lunch is at noon one day and 45 minutes later the next. Whatever time it happens, when we're done we proceed to the couch; Alethea nurses while I read stories to Peregrine. After that they both go down for their rest.
I'm going to continue working toward actually completing the things I'd like to in my "ideal" day, and I'm not tossing that schedule I made, just thinking a little differently about it. I have no doubt many people structure their days more according to the clock and it works well for them, but I think this idea better fits who we are as a family. A schedule makes me think of marching, one foot in front of another, to my destination. It's a good way to get there. But Rhythm makes me feel like dancing, and that sounds even better!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

K is for Kiwi

Our Baby Kiwi Fruit

I'd almost decided that K was a useless letter until my sister reminded me of the word cake. I stand corrected. But seriously, we could almost get rid of it. As I've been thinking of K words I'm struck by how many of them don't actually start with K (Krispy Kreme, Kampground, Kut n' Kurl, etc.) Anyway, here are some things we're doing to learn the oh-so-kool-and-klever (and possibly korny) letter K:

* Make a paper Kite like the kids in India do.
* Practice Psalm 34:13 "Keep your tongue from speaking evil."
* Kick a ball.
* Listen to stories about various Kings from the Bible.
* Talk about (and hopefully practice) Kindness.
* See how our Kiwis are growing.
* Talk about the countries whose names start with K: Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, and Korea.
* Learn about Kangaroos.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Chicken-Neck Syndrome

Today is my Mom's birthday. I won't tell you how old she is, for from a young age I was forbidden from disclosing such a secret. I used to get around it by stating my Dad's age and then saying she was just a few months younger, but I have a slightly better understanding of the "letter" and the "spirit" of the law now! As long as I can remember, my Mom has never wanted anyone to make a big deal out of her birthday. When we'd ask what she wanted she would say "I just want my children to love each other and to love the Lord." Or, if pressed, she might say that she could really use some new dishcloths or a bathrobe or something equally exciting.
My Mom is truly one of the most unselfish people I know. I've always loved her but the older I get, and especially now that I'm a Mom, I appreciate her more and more. She gave birth to and raised five children, and I don't ever remember thinking there was anything she'd have rather been doing. Her time wasn't spent elsewhere with a little left for us- we got quality and quantity. She was always there, ready to comfort, teach, correct, and love us. She played with us, read to us, and taught us by her example how to cook and sew and garden and care for people. There was always room at our table for an extra person (or two or three or four) and whatever small space we lived in she made comfortable and welcoming to whoever might need it. While she extended love and mercy to many over the years I never felt like it was at our expense. We were part of whatever was going on. During my years growing up, I can remember only a couple of times my parents ever left us and did anything on their own. We were what they did and, for the most part, we did things all together, as a family.
I remember many, many times being afraid in the night and finding a warm cozy refuge in my Mom's arms. I would soon fall asleep again, safe with my parents, but now I wonder how often she lay awake on account of a frightened wiggly girl who had invaded her rest! She taught me many verses from the Bible and that God would never leave me or forsake me. How often she would open her old Bible, it's pages loose and its cover worn, to some familiar passage and read words of assurance over her children. She loved the Psalms, and in the mornings we would see her, stealing a few moments here and there to read through the Bible faithfully. She kept five little heart shaped slips of paper in there, one for each of us. On them she had written our names and the things she prayed for us daily. For many years there was little money but we were richly clothed in her prayers.
She tells a story of her grandmother, who emigrated from Italy many years ago. Money was tight and nothing went to waste. Her grandma would always eat the chicken neck, insisting to her family that it was her favorite part! In reality, it was one way of putting her family first, giving them the best and taking only what was left for herself. My Mom is a lot like that, and we often tease her about having the Chicken-Neck Syndrome. It inspires me and it puts me to shame. I so often want to keep what's best for myself and feel frustrated when I don't have time to pursue "my" interests.
So thanks Mom, for being who you are- a wonderful Mama and wife and friend. Thanks for keeping the Chicken-Neck Syndrome alive. I love and admire you and want to be like you when I grow up. A Happy, Happy Birthday to you.
Do you need any new dishcloths?

My Mom's Hands

Thursday, June 22, 2006

J is for Jam

This is J week, and I don't know where the days have gone. Here are some of the things we've done or hope to do before it's over:

* Make a small batch of Jam with some of our strawberries.
* Talk about family members whose names start with J. We have plenty: Jacob, Joseph, Jackie, Jessamyn, and Josh.
* Talk about having a Joyful heart
* Practice John 14:6 "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life"."
* Learn about Jellyfish and make one with a paper bowl or plate and some ribbon.
* Read Bread and Jam for Francis and have a meal of bread and Jam.
* Do Jumping Jacks!
* Sing John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.
* Read the story of Jonah from the Bible.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Thoughtful (In a Very High Context, Rambling Sort of Way)

Now the years are rolling by me,
They are rocking evenly
Now I'm older than I once was
and younger than I'll be.
(Simon and Garfunkel)

I'm in a Melancholy Mood this afternoon. It's a fleeting sort of mood, one I'm afforded for a few moments as Alethea sleeps peacefully and Peregrine looks at books quietly for his rest time. I just put a cheesecake in the oven for my sweet Mama's birthday tomorrow, and have been listening to Simon and Garfunkel as I work. Somehow I feel a bit introspective and nostalgic hearing them play and sing songs that seem to take me back to various times and places in my life. Some of the memories are tinged with sadness, but mostly they're just memories- I saw the face and remembered the name of a Romanian girl I knew when I was 17- Claudia, with dark hair and smiling face, singing "Feeling Groovy" one evening in San Diego. I'm sure I haven't thought of her in years but there she was. I recall visits to my friend Shelley's house, during high school, and seeing the old Simon and Garfunkel records they'd grown up listening to. And for some reason, and I'm not sure why, I'm taken back to cool evenings meandering the streets of Kathmandu. It's likely because the shops would blast their bootleg "Amrikan" music in hopes of luring us in. Small children would approach, putting hand to their mouths and asking in their most pathetic voices "One Dal Bhat?", cows roamed freely, rickshaw drivers vied for our business, and we mostly ignored the constant clamor of men trying to sell us anything and everything: "Tiger Balm? Buddha? Silk? Massage? Change Money? Hashish?"
I'm tired. Allergies have worn me down, and I feel like I could sleep a week. The worst should be over within two weeks, but that's a lot of restless nights and tired days. (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme....) The smell of baking cheesecake is nice; sweet and mellow and homey. (In Indian newspapers there are pages and pages of marriage ads, and I always laughed when they would describe the women as "homely" instead of "homey". And the guys who worked in our guest house, if we weren't keeping busy enough, would say in a very concerned way "I think you are very boring today!" instead of "bored"!) I miss those days- there are hard things about living there, but I love the simplicity of it. Of course, being there with kids would be a completely different experience, but I'd still do it if we could. Maybe someday.
But for now, my nice Amrikan sink is full of dirty dishes and my little boy, I'm sure, has been quiet nearly as long as is possible for one with such energy as his. So, my melancholy moment is over, and I will choose to move on and live, not in the past and not in the future, but now, where I am.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Conquering the Mountain

Before: The "Stuff" that took over a room!

For the last couple months the bed in our extra room has been the catch-all for "stuff" I didn't feel like dealing with. The majority of it was kids clothes- things they'd either outgrown or that we'd been given for them to grow into. Having no organized system for dealing with these things I'd conveniently been tossing them on the bed and closing the door! What started small turned into a mountain, and with a friend coming to stay for a few days I knew it was finally time to face it! I pulled out all the totes that contained kids' clothes and hauled the piles to the living room. I dumped all the loose clothing into a heap on the floor and started sorting. It took a while, but I managed to get through it, dividing it into things to keep and things to get rid of. The keepers then got sorted by size and gender into totes that I actually labeled!
I was pretty amazed at just how much clothing we've accumulated over the last few years. For such small bodies all those little clothes sure add up! It was fun to go through and remember them in favorite little outfits and then try to imagine another baby of ours wearing the same thing down the road. I'm astonished at how quickly my babies grow!
As I sorted and labeled I realized a few things: If I were to start all over I would buy only one style of tote instead of whatever one happens to be on sale at the moment. It would make it simpler if the lids were interchangeable and if they all stacked nicely. And then there were the hundred little socks that needed to be dealt with! It was hard, but I decided to throw away any sock that didn't have a match. I had to accept the sad fact that if it hasn't shown up in the last year or two, it's probably gone forever! And then I made another decision regarding socks; apart from a few special pairs and some of the tiny ones that actually stayed on newborn feet I chose to keep only the socks that have the size printed on the bottom. Otherwise it's just too hard to tell where they go. Old Navy socks are 8 for $10 and have the age printed in grippy stuff on the bottom- it's so nice when it comes to the next child to know when to get them out.
It's a really good feeling to have all that done. I have four boxes of stuff to be gotten rid of. Clothes the kids have outgrown are neatly labeled and put out into storage, ready to be gotten down for the next baby. I can imagine it now. "Erik, could you please bring in the "Boy, 0-3 Month" tote and the "Cradle Bedding" one?" And he'll actually be able to find them! Now, as they outgrow things, I have a tote to put them in, and the "to grow into" totes are conveniently in their closet, ready for the next growth spurt! And next time someone comes to stay, instead of sorting through a mountain of clothing I'll just need to fluff up the pillows on the bed.

After: Labeled totes on the left and "Stuff" to get rid of on the couch!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Sock-Eating Dryer and other Hero Tales Starring the Fixin' Daddy

        My Dad could fix just about anything, at least in my mind. When something broke we didn't throw it away; we took it to Daddy and he fixed it. Daddy went to the dump, brought home stuff that others tossed, and fixed it. Daddy bought old cars and made them run again. My brothers in turn learned how to fix things. So when it came time for me to think about marriage and what qualities were important to me in a man, I knew I wanted someone who could be a "fixin' Daddy" like mine had been. There were other, more important things on my mental list, but a man who couldn't fix things, to me, would have been a bit disappointing.
        About a week after Erik and I started courting, his truck (conveniently) broke down at my parents house, which meant he had to spend a lot of time there working on it. (I didn't mind a bit!) Not too much later he replaced the shocks on my car. Not only was I impressed, but my Dad was more than ready to pass the fixin' torch on to the next generation when it came to my old car! Several months later we were married and I knew I'd found my very own Fixin' man. It's a good thing too, because it seems there's always a lot of things that need fixin' around here.
        Just last week Peregrine and Alethea were unloading the dryer for me. I took the lint filter out to clean, and they happily dropped a tiny sock down into it. Peregrine pointed it out to me and I told him Daddy would know how to get it out. I stupidly decided to dry the last load of clothes, thinking the sock would get sucked up toward the filter. Well, of course I was mistaken, and the sock instead got sucked down to the innards of the dryer. And the dryer died. Fixin' Daddy to the rescue!!! Erik, with his (not-always-so-helpful) helper Peregrine pulled the dryer out, took it apart, and got it working again. But the funny thing is, they never found the sock!
        I'm thankful for a wonderful husband who, even when he'd rather be doing other things, is able to fix the things that break around here. Peregrine watches and is learning, and someday he'll be a fixin' Daddy too. He likes to handle the tools and get involved in Erik's projects as much as he can. Just the other day he said to me "Dad is really clever." Yes, he is really clever, my fixin' man!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I thought it was time for a little update on some of the happenings around here:

* Erik still hasn't gone on strike. The night before it was supposed to happen, his employer gave a little in negotiations, which meant it went back to another Union vote. Of course their offer was rejected and so now we are waiting for them to issue another strike notice. It makes for a pretty charged work environment as you can imagine. I wonder how long this game playing will go on! We're looking forward to it being settled, but at this point we don't know when that might be.
* We're in the middle of allergy season here in the grass seed capital of the world. What that means for us is that we have about 6 weeks of itching, watering eyes, and sneezing runny noses! Good sleep is hard to come by, and we're feeling tired and worn out. So please keep us in your prayers through the next few weeks of this. It's usually over around July 4th.
* Poppy is taking her first teetering steps and it's pretty exciting to get to be part of such a wondrous thing!
* We have tasted our first few ripe raspberries and are watching for our strawberries to ripen. Mmmmm...... I also noticed tiny fruit on our Kiwi vines yesterday! It's so exciting to watch things grow and then to get to enjoy the harvest!
* I decided to spend another week on the letter I, as last week we didn't get much done.

Well, I think that's about it for now. Not too much exciting, but I wanted to report on what was happening with the strike. Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, June 12, 2006


Yesterday morning Erik went out to the shop and discovered that the door on the big freezer had been left open. Judging from how much ice had been built up in there it had been open for a while. (Peregrine isn't allowed to go in there, but he admitted that he had.) Many, many containers of applesauce, strawberries, blackberries, peaches, chili, some large packs of hamburger I'd stocked up on, a hambone, and a lot of miscellaneous stuff was spoiled. Needless to say, Erik and I both felt pretty discouraged. All that food represents not only money, but a lot of time spent in preparation. I love putting away food, making extra portions and freezing them, and stocking up on sale items.
This morning as I dumped carton after carton down the garbage disposal (in order to save the containers) I thought about how insignificant this is in the bigger picture, and even found some things to be thankful for in this:

* I'm glad this didn't happen in the fall, when our freezer would have been much fuller with the summer's bounty.
* I'm glad that the freezer worked overtime and that even though the food was spoiled, not too much liquid ended up on the floor. Stacked next to the freezer is new laminate flooring waiting to be installed- it would have been really sad if it had been ruined too!
* I'm glad that even though this is a "big" loss, we still have plenty.

I also thought about what it means to store up treasures in heaven, where they aren't subject to the damage of this world. I don't think it's unwise to look to the future of our families, to store up food when it's in season or on sale, but even these things we need to hold loosely to. There will come a day when all our deeds will be shown for what they are, and only what is built firmly on the right foundation will last. The things of this world will all come to ruin. I know this, but it's so easy to be caught up in caring for the things of this world.
Father, help me to be storing up treasures in heaven, to be investing in Your kingdom. Teach me to live wisely on this earth, caring little for the things that will perish. Help me to be wise in how I spend my time and money, and to choose carefully the things I do. Teach me to fix my mind and heart on things above, and not on things below.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I is for Incredible

It's I time! We didn't do a letter last week as we've had a lot going on but this week we're back into the swing of things. Here are some ideas for learning about the letter I:

* Learn about India. We've been reading about it and looking at pictures and we will make a simple Indian meal or rice and dal.
* Eat Ice Cream!
* Talk about Initiative and praise Peregrine when he does something without being told. Or, as he says "I did it without telling!"
* Sing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" together with the actions.
* Learn about Iguanas. Maybe make a trip to the pet store to see one.
* Talk about other countries that start with I- Italy, Iceland, Indoneisa, Israel, Iran, Iraq, and Ireland. Peregine loves looking at maps and globes so we can point them out together.
* Make a simple Instrument like a shaker.
* Learn about Inches and practice measuring with a ruler or measuring tape.
* Practice Philippians 3:14 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

The photo above is of my incredible sister and brother-in-law at Peregrine's last birthday party.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Monday Morning Bits and Pieces

Here's what on my mind this Monday morning:
* I appreciated all the comments you gave on relevance in the church. I hope to write some more about it soon.
* I went to my very first homeschool curriculaum fair on Saturday. I picked up a few books in the used area, and then a couple of "chapter books" from Rod and Staff. Two of them are stories of a little boy named Mohan who lives in India and is befriended by a Christian family. We are already seven chapters into the first book and Peregrine is loving it! It's important to us to expose our kids to other cultures and impart a heart for missions, and Rod and Staff has a lot of books along these lines from different cultures.
* I also picked up a demo DVD and some information from Math-U-See. I'd read a bit about this program and wanted to learn more. Erik and I watched most of the demo last night and it made so much sense. I think kids would grasp math concepts much more easily this way because it's visual and hands-on so they're not trying to understand some very abstract concept merely represented by symblos on paper. This program goes all the way up through high school. On the DVD he even showed how to factor polynomials with the blocks and it made more sense to me than it ever did in high school. I never thought Math was a subject I could get excited about teaching my kids, but after seeing how this works I can hardly wait to start! Do any of you use Math-U-See? How has it worked for you?
* Erik's company and his union have been wrangling over a contract for the last several months and have been unable to reach an agreement. Watching it unfold has been interesting- it's like a big game with high stakes, but very much a game. The union has called a strike that will start tomorrow. Erik has been really divided over what to do- he feels that this loyalty should lie with his employer, not the union, but of course that doesn't sit well with his co-workers. He just learned last week that he can opt out of being a full union member and not be bound by their rules. (They can fine a person $500 per day for going to work during a strike.) So, he's decided to opt out. He will still strike, at least at first. The guys he works with made it very clear that he'd better not show up to work. So he's trying to find the balance between being a good employee and maintaining good relationships with his co-workers and foremen. The strike is expected to last four to six weeks, but he is hoping to be able to get back to work within a week. Please pray that he will have wisdom to know what the Lord would have him do in this somewhat delicate situation!
* Erik is almost done with the coffee roaster he's been building, and should be ready to roast in the next week or so. The strike will actually afford him time to work more on this project. He's been roasting his own beans for about a year now and is excited to try to get the "big" roaster up and running. It will have the capacity to roast up to 15lbs at a time, and he's hoping to establish some customers here in the coffee-crazed Northwest!
* Lastly, Peregrine was sent a chain letter sticker club thing by one of his friends. He's asked to send two packs of stickers and then send the letter on to six others. Is anyone interested in having your child participate in this? I don't usually go in for these things :> but I know that it's fun for kids to get mail, especially if stickers are involved! So, if you're interested, email me with your address.

I think that's about it. I hope you all have a great week with your families!