Friday, June 28, 2013

June 28

What is the only thing better than a visit from an old friend? A visit with another old friend. And another old friend, all in one week. And now I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of another old (Haiti) friend and her family for the weekend.

It is the part of summer I look forward to most. This summer it seems that an entire year's worth of social activity is taking place in about six weeks. I am loving it. I keep reminding myself of the times this winter when we didn't leave the house for days. This is so much better. 

So not a lot of social media has been happening lately, and has been replaced by the very best thing: real people.

This is our summer: 

in the van out of the van in the van out of the van in the van out of the van . ..

fall asleep on your chips.
(not that we would ever eat in the van ahem)

Followed by a lot of this:

Summer is good good good.

I would really like to blog one of these days about friends and how fabulously different we all are and why I need them and how much I learn from these precious people . . . I am going to blog about that some day. Maybe at the end of the summer, as I am beginning another year of isolation homeschool. 

(you know I'm joking, I love homeschool and it is not at all isolating).

I did manage to finish one book:

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

First, this is a really fun book. One of the challenges of writing contemporary fiction (I am finding), is how to incorporate technology in a way that is believable, relatable, human, and that won't seem out of date in a few years. No one can predict what or how we will be interacting with technology even just a few years for now, and how does one write a novel that rests firmly in an age that is changing so rapidly? The author Robin Sloan has taken this head-on with a story described as a "technocratic" adventure.

My first reaction was that Sloan must be young, in his early twenties, both because of his quirky and total relationship with technology, and because of the way the story moves: quickly, humorously, a little offbeat, with endearing inner dialogue and just a touch of narcissism. Sloan's About page describes himself as "splitting his time between San Francisco and the internet." Clever.

I loved the narrator and the concept of the story- the intersection of old books with new technology, in the form of a mystery complete with secret societies and codes and the quest for the meaning of life. I also felt that the book seemed to have been written very quickly, probably between tweets. The plot was too easily resolved, and the characters a little flat.

However I found myself smiling the whole way through. The bookcover also glows in the dark. Which is just . .. right.

Monday, June 24, 2013

\in the morning

5:00 alarm buzzes
5:47 coffee brews
6:07 the garage door wakes Josie
7:24 I pour cereal rinse berries
8:11 she wants to brush her own hair I say no we must leave she cries and cries and cries in her carseat it was all she ever wanted now this.
8:30 we visit the doctor for shots they won't let you into kindergarten without them, five years old they are already declaring her mortal.
9:22 we drive through Starbucks and the bank these things need to be done
9:27 she watches the clock the seven year old has seen these numbers before, It is a pattern she says time repeats itself.
Yes love
9:28 she steps into mortality too
10:30 I fold laundry I think about eternity more and more I wonder does it walk among us can we step into and out of it perhaps we do it all the time?
12:25 after lunch we lay on the grass and read library books all of this buzzing and growing happening beneath us I think this bee, it is eternal, it does not know when it began or that it has an end it only exists, as we will, or do?
12:40 we read a book about a farm and these cows, they are eternal, they are only now and this is now and the rooster, what is there for a rooster to think about but Glory? 
12:58 one more book, it is time to rest
1:08 How much longer? she asks
hmm about one hour.
How long is an hour? 
1:09 We are bored and unashamed.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Weekend Soup Summer Solstice Edition

This week we painted the kitchen.

It is Twilight Meadow from Lowe's and not at all sophisticated. I love it.

Print #1 "People who love to eat are always the best people"- Julia Child. (I bought it on etsy a few years ago, and can't find the link now).

Print #2 Matisse. I can't seem to find this exact print right now, either. But click here for happiness.

We are renting and there's not much we can do with the old linoleum or cabinets, but the kitchen is bright and I spend a lot of time there so I'm glad we chose a color I love, even if it is a little Florida Old Lady-ish.

Today is my last morning alone while the kids are VBS. I am so thankful for these few hours each day this week, and seriously grateful to the volunteers willing to sacrifice a week of their summer to teach my kids about Jesus. The girls all had fun, and came home singing new songs and reciting the fruits of the Spirit. To the people pouring time and energy and love into children in so many unglamorous and hidden ways, Thank-You.

Also this week . ..

Listened to this great message by Tim Keller: Your Plans God's Plans (recommend!)

We shelled peas. Used up the veggies we didn't know what to do with in this frittata. (This is a weekly supper in the summer, usually the night before we get our new CSA and need to clean out the fridge.)

We enjoyed a visit from Nana for two days. I got to go to the grocery store by myself and go shopping in the evening with my mom. 

I was able to experience Sam's first npr driveway moment with her as she was listening to this story (How Circadian Rhythms Give Vegetable a Boost). 

Spent a sunny afternoon with friends, in good honest conversation while the kids played. These are the moments my soul craves.

Anticipating a visit from a Haiti friend tonight! Hooray!

And now I am off to go thank some amazing volunteers.
Happy Summer Solstice!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

cloud chasing

Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending. The risks are obvious: you may never get to the end of the sentence at all- or having gotten there, you may not have said anything. . . 
Control, apparently, is not the answer. People who need certainty in their lives are less likely to make art that is risky, subversive, complicated, iffy, suggestive or spontaneous.
What's really needed is nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it, and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way. 

Simply put, making art is chancy- it doesn't mix well with predictability.

Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding.  (Art & Fear)

I spent the morning writing. And yesterday morning. And Monday morning.  

Oh, bless you Vacation Bible School!

It has been a very unexpected writing retreat. My children all went to VBS. All three of them. I had very low expectations for this week because the last time we attempted VBS one child ran out into the parking lot looking for me, and I was halfway through the grocery store when the church called and that was the end of VBS.

This year I had no idea that three year olds could attend. No idea! Josie wore a pink tutu on Monday because I thought I was only dropping her sisters off, but then her sweet little friend was staying and she wanted to stay too, and every day this week I am dropping off three children for three hours and heading to the library to write.


At this rate I only need thirteen more summers of VBS and my novel will be complete.

I decided that this would be the summer I ignore the children.

Okay, I won't really ignore them of course. But they don't need me like they used to. (Sleeping through the night, check. Potty trained, check. Not crying every five minutes .. . almost there).

I have had this "broad sense of what I am looking for" for a long time, but it seemed there were constant roadblocks. This felt at the time like failing, but I think that I was doing what I needed to do; the cloud was simply hovering. I needed to live in that season, and wait. I'm glad I did.

Virginia Wolf insisted that a woman needs money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. Why do I expect that I should be able to fit writing a novel into the sleepless margins of life with small children? ( Stephanie Meyer apparently can do it: I however cannot).

This summer I felt a renewed sense of purpose, what I needed was a strategy for how to do it. This came in the form of a friend who offered to watch my kids for six hours a week praise God from whom all blessings flow. And now there is VBS, and I am also trying to write for two good hours in the mornings.

I see now that the wait was not fruitless. I scrawled some of the important pieces to this story at the end of weary days.

And even this will likely be only for a season. And even if I do get a manuscript written over the next thirteen summers, there is a good chance it will never be published, or that it will be really terrible or that by 2029 book publishing won't even exist. There are many more productive things I could be doing with this time.

That's okay.

Because for now there is this cloud I'm chasing. And words that come to me in my sleep. And this holy happiness that feels a lot like fear and uncertainty and faith. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 14

Good stuff this week . ..

Imagination and the Work of Faith: the High Calling
We would learn, through the tangible medium before us, to find a way to make glory out of catastrophe. To let imagination become a way to practice faith, both of these calling things that are not as though they were. To unlock the world for what it is, at its most elemental: teeming with possibility.

The fear and the funk of homeschooling: Simple Homeschool
Instead we will have moments of confidence and moments of insecurity. Moments of brilliance and moments of doubt. Moments of clarity and moments of confusion.

Mama Cutsworth's Homeschooling Mix: geeze magazine

In which God has asked too much of us: Sarah Bessey
Oh, this made me hurt all over again for friends who are grief. Thank-you, Sarah Bessey, for not wrapping this up in bows.

We're the rats, and facebook likes are the reward: the Atlantic

Ten Things Our Kids Need to Hear Every Week

Logic and Laughter: A Slice of Infinity
A former atheist, Lewis came to believe with everything in him that Christianity gives an explanation—and a face—to the joy we stumble across, joy that “flickers on the razor-edge of the present and is gone.”

Read this week: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
I did not think I was going to like this book at first, but I ended up really enjoying it. It tells the story of a family from four different perspectives: the grandmother, one daughter, the daughter-in-law, and one of the granddaughters.

The Kelleher family is deeply embroiled in their own family drama, tensions, secrets, conflict, but by telling the story from all four perspectives the reader gains an understanding of how each think and feel, why they act the ways they do and can sympathize with each of the flawed characters. A good lesson in family conflict, to assume that people are doing the best they can, with all of their hurts and baggage. And the book was very funny. Good summer read!

Happy Father's Day to my husband. You tell our girls every day that they are beautiful and smart, you love to teach them things, you take them on dates to the art museum, will always protect them, and you work really hard at everything you do and make it possible for me to be at home. I think it takes a special kind of man to be the father of daughters, and you do it so well. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Just what the world needs, part 2

Last night for dinner we all ate a big plate of bok-choy and chickpeas with a side of eggplant, no one complained.

Our CSA season has begun, and I am preparing new recipes filled with wonderful veggies. Thankfully, my kids are good eaters. It is very rare that any of them complain about their food.

How did we raise good eaters? We like to eat. And I like to experiment. I hardly ever make the same recipe twice. They have probably been conditioned from the womb to enjoy a variety of spices, seasonings, and strange new foods.

Please indulge me in this one small victory. It came as such a revelation to me last night, as we sat eating our funky dinner .. . My kids are good eaters! Exceptional eaters! I could write a book .. . it would be the Babywise of how to get your child to eat her vegetables! If eating a variety of foods were a badge of parenting success, we have nailed it! We are pretty much rock-star parents!

For one small moment I felt like one of those parents who talks breezily of how her children have slept through the night since they were three days old, and sleep until seven and take two naps a day.

Maybe I needed to pat myself on the back just once, because I do plenty of self-criticism. We all do. And we feel it, too. There is no broader target for being criticized than parenting. And it is such a cheap target. They're kids! Most adults haven't figured out our own quirks and issues yet, but we freely heap judgment on children for their obvious imperfections . . . and of course the child's parents.

This during a season of fretting and doubting and feeling a bit inadequate . .. every parent has their own challenges, we have ours.

Our kids didn't sleep at night. I mean . .. really. With the occasional exception, I rarely slept for more than two or three hours at a time until they were each three years old. And telling me about Babywise was as effective as me telling the parent of a picky eater that her child needs to eat more vegetables. We know.

And some things get easier and some things get harder as they get older. Our kids are strong willed, just like their parents, and sensitive just like their parents, and they have awesome senses of humor and love to learn and explore things and they have kind hearts and wild imaginations and I do hope that is a little bit like their parents.

This is what finally occurred to me last night . .. our kids are going to learn our values, no matter what. I value food, and our kids have learned to value it as well. I want them to be able to travel and not be picky, to eat healthy foods, and most of all I want them to enjoy food because it is good, and good for them.

I don't know why this came as such a revelation to me, but it was profoundly encouraging.

Doesn't it seem that kids who fall easily into a sleep routine, often have parents who are naturally more structured? And kids who are quiet and easy going often have quieter parents. They learn the habits we live by, more than the habits we try to enforce.

I laughed when I mentioned this to Jim and I said, don't you wish that I valued things like quiet and routine? And my engineer husband rolled his eyes and said, YES.

I really loved this article (Huff Post: The parenting milestones that matter most) because I find it fascinating to learn how different cultures raise their children, and they way they value completely different things. There are a few values that really matter, and a lot that are simply cultural, or a matter of preference.

I keep thinking about this post I wrote a few years ago, Just what the world needs now, more parenting advice, and this is my parenting advice for the preschool age, and it is a lot the same: your baby is all yours, you get to decide now. And, I would add this: examine your own values. Values are so subjective, and every family is so different. Maybe a child's misbehavior is an indication of your own value needing corrected ... or maybe it is an affirmation of your values!

Unquestioning obedience is a nice thought, but do I want my teenage and adult daughters to possess that value? Nope. And so I will tolerate their debating and questioning.

Quiet and easy going would work out well for me, but it is their strong will and determination that we hope to encourage, and so I must lean in and work with it and bear it gladly. Their sensitivity can be maddening and exhausting, but it is where they will find compassion and love for the world.

And this is the most important advice I would give . . . you are doing something right! It may not look like everybody else, and your kids won't act like every other kid, but every parent can point to some value that they do really well. Every kid is awesome.

And those parents who are doing something completely different, but doing it really well . . . we can learn from them! Wouldn't it be great if we all decided to learn from each other rather than judge one another?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


6:13 a.m. the house is still. I am hoping for another thirty minutes, a few minutes more if I am lucky.. . and now I hear them begin chattering in their beds, the day begins.

We have a little friend here this week and she is precious, it is a house full of girls and sweetness and tiny things. Add a fourth little girl to the mix and things just become sunnier and quieter and noisier and more alive. Her parents are at a youth camp, serving other people's kids, and I am glad they trust me with theirs.

On Sunday we left Cak-Cak at church. It is Annie's constant companion, and when I called our pastors to check on the fate of Cak-Cak my pastor-friend Nan offered to go hunt for him . .. and only a true friend or a really great mother would offer to go search for your daughter's ratty, terrible-looking beloved creature, understanding, and Nan is both. And when we swung by her house yesterday there was Cak-Cak, and then she offered to watch my kids so I could get groceries and she saved me twice yesterday.

And this is the beauty of moms, we need each other. People always need people, everyone does, but children make us know it and admit it.

I love that our kids are growing up in a warm community of other moms who love them, who know their quirks and obsessions just as they know their own kids', and will nurture and protect and be gentle with my kids just as they are gentle with their own.

There was a morning at church once, we had been attending only a short time, and Jim was working and something was happening- I don't remember- but one or more of my kids was being especially terrible and finally I gave up, in the middle of the service, packed them up and we left, four of us trying and failing to slip discreetly out the back. And at the door was my friend Cara smiling and nodding and and saying We-have-all-been-there . .. no judgment, no narrow eyes, only kindness, only motherly support and grace and I pulled out of the parking lot thinking this is my church. We are safe here.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. and there is no greater test of gentleness than children and I know now, deeply, where there is gentleness the Lord is near. The most gentle people I know, I see God; places and environments and communities strong enough to be gentle- the Lord is near.

It is such small work, being a mother, but the Lord is near.

Mothers who are gentle with their children, and mothers gentle with other mothers. In my own calling to daily, impossible gentleness I find the Lord. I am so imperfect and sometimes I think I don't know what I am doing but I keep trying, and I am learning to be gentle with myself too.

I keep learning that when I want to snap but I drop to my knees instead to whisper I find the strength of the Lord, and when I lean in, when I draw closer and smaller, quieter, I find the joy of the Lord.

Because learning to be gentle with my children I am learning how to be gentle with others. I learn that we are all a bit tattered, all falling apart somewhere, all painfully vulnerable, all deeply beloved.

My kids have taught me this, gentleness, and when I am gentle I find I am at the Lord's feet.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

june one happiness

Today begins my favorite month of the year, Happy June 1st!

We spent the morning at the Botanical Garden making art with flowers . . . as one should spend the morning of the first day of June. 

I love this idea- give your kids materials from the garden to arrange and rearrange on a flat spot in the yard. How simple is that. The kids loved this.

I spent all week registering my kids for camps and classes, planning weekend visits with friends and family and at the same time all week I spent thinking that I want this summer to be simple and quiet and restful and quiet and restful . . . 

Our homeschooling hasn't exactly finished for the year so much as it's just changing gears. The past couple of weeks I relaxed; we kept a gentle pace, but there was a lot of school still happening and I am thinking, maybe this is the way I need to approach our lessons always.

My plan for the summer is to read with the kids, a lot, and we have Handwriting Without Tears workbooks and Song School Latin, just for fun. 

Last night I went out for dinner with the other two moms we homeschool with for our own Teacher Appreciation Night, smile. I am so grateful for these girls! (Would you believe it, none of us have smart phones so there weren't any pictures). I have heard many people say that they have had a really difficult time finding a group that felt right, and I am so thankful the Lord gave me these girls this year. Homeschooling without a community would have felt really isolating to me. To those brave moms doing this thing all alone, or in unfriendly environments, you are doing an incredibly hard job and have all my respect. 


Relevant: What Not to Say to a Friend Who's Getting a Divorce- this is great advice for any difficult situation, not just divorce. I especially like the things TO say.

Oh, I can relate so much to this: In Which I Know, I'm Sorry, I Hope I was Kind- Sarah Bessey
Maybe it’s because I’m gratefully disillusioned about church leadership. Maybe it’s because I’m pretty convinced that we’re all doing the best we can do, most of the time. Maybe it’s because I don’t think anyone has the corner on truth.Maybe it’s because I’m thankful for the extremes and all points in between, because they keep us growing, keep us alive, keep us reforming. Maybe it’s because I’ve been wrong so often. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit tired.

Have a lovely first day of June, friends.