baby · books · cleaning · faith · family · food · · kids · learning · marriage · motherhood · organizing · Orthodoxy · parenting

Christ in Our Midst

Tonight I headed out to the art shed to look for a set of Logic books that I need for a class I am thinking about teaching in the spring.  When I opened the door to this small space I was aghast at it’s condition.  My two oldest daughters use this space the most, and it was amazing to me that such little care is taken with all the very expensive art supplies in their room.  This space is intended to be an artist’s retreat…a renovated plant shed fully furnished with oils, canvases, watercolors, chalks, charcoal, drawing pencils, instruction books, etc.  I left the little wreck of a room quite angry.  Before prayers I had a chat with the girls about caring for our home and respecting the things in it as objects of great value.  Because things do have value…and not just monetary value. They have value in themselves.

In a world that has gone spiritually mad it is often difficult to understand the material world…to value it in such a way that elevates it as holy.  And yes, I believe paint and pencils and books are holy things, along with everything else in the created world.  One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle, sums it up quite nicely in her wonderful book Walking on Water

 “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred, and that is one of the deepest messages of the Incarnation.” (And if you love the subjects of art and faith this is a must read…a must purchase.)

When I first read that book in my early twenties it was like a butterfly effect in my life…a small change that created an earthquake later down the road.  And since, I have been utterly undone by the knowledge of the Incarnation and its implications.  A simple shift, yet so profound…no longer must the material world be subject to the murderous accusation of being evil, or worse, mundane. No longer must men decide if some thing is good…if some thing is evil.  Everything God created is good!

Christ became man, taking on flesh, showing that man can become by grace what Christ is by nature…we become the body of Christ.  Christ showed us that the material world is good, and real, and valuable.  It’s all very deep, and I do not intend to get in over my head in theology.  But, at the same time I know that this knowledge, however limited and shallow, has changed my life. This knowledge can change one’s entire inner posture and experience.  Because of Christ man has the power to redeem his world….to live the incarnation.  Every good work is essentially an incarnational work.  And what we would deem as bad works, or sin, have no material value because evil cannot create anything.

But, I am a common housewife…busy with so-called mundane tasks…tasks that go unnoticed and undervalued by a world that is high on ideological promises and rhetoric.  A world that believes ideas change the world, not home cooked meals and prayers before bed.  How can this common housewife be anything more than the one saddled with all the unpleasant necessaries…the stuff that has to be done so we can get on with the real business of the world?  Is my work really valuable…the work of my hands?  Is it incarnational…dirty diapers, really?  

And yet, here I am tonight thinking about art supplies and how they are holy and how if my children will value them it will grow in them a heart after God.  And how lately I have been in a modern mood…not really valuing things…and barely tolerating people.  A momentary lapse of heart…that’s what it really is.

After I came in from the art shed I opened the altar cabinet doors, and I decided to take care of something valuable…something I have been neglecting…the liturgical supplies.  Incense has permeated the wood along with the earthy smell of beeswax.  It is a wonderful smell, and it did my heart good to touch the things in the cabinet, holy things.  I looked across my living room and an interesting thought crossed my mind…everything in this room is holy. This is the antidote for my modern mood…for my lack of enthusiasm.  Every thing and every person in this home has value…in and of itself.  And I am the keeper…the keeper at home…the keeper of home.

My work is holy.  And every thing I encounter in my day; the laundry, the crying, the dishes, the food, the neighbor, the phone call…every demand, every interruption, every failure, every trill of laughter is…

Christ in our midst.

Most days these kinds of thoughts do not pass through my mind. Most days I just get up and put my work boots on…one at a time.  But sometimes it is good to remember, especially when life begins to stretch me thin and and I feel like my work is drudgery.  Sometimes we keepers at home can get in a bad way.

Tomorrow I am going to help the girls make things right in the art shed.  I plan on cooking a nice dinner and finishing up the laundry.  I hope to steal away for a bit and finish my Journey to Nativity calendar.  There’s always school that needs doin’, and babies that need rockin’, and dishes that need washin’.  And I am going to read this post again in the morning…and remind myself that all of this…this big life that wears me out…it’s holy…it’s valuable…it’s incarnational.

It’s Christ in our midst.

faith · family · homeschooling · · kids · learning · motherhood · parenting

Happy Children

Happy is he who still loves something he loved in the nursery: He is not broken in two by time; he is not two men, but one, and he has saved not only his soul, but his life.” G.K. Chesterton

fall · family · friendship · fun · · kids · play · seasons

Happy all it’s gory!

Hope everyone has a safe and fantastic Halloween.  Don’t eat too much candy!  
Fun Fact:
My favorite candy treat is a Butterfinger.  I steal all of them out of the trick-or-treat bags every year.  
cooking · family · fun · home tour · kids · play · projects

A DIY Play Kitchen

 My girls outgrew the store bought play kitchens long before they outgrew playing house.  Our solution: a DIY play kitchen.  I wish I had detailed instructions, but a quick search on the web will give you all the information/instructions you will need to complete this project in time for Christmas.  If you are looking for a wonderful gift for a special girl…look no further.  My daughters have enjoyed hours upon hours of fun in this playroom.  I love to watch my kids get lost in play. 

Speaking of playrooms…when it came to making a decision of what to do with the one extra room in the house…a school room, a playroom, or an office…we chose playroom.  I have never regretted that decision.  We filled it with baby dolls and accessories , dress up clothes, play kitchen toys, and a grocery store.  My parents made the little spool table and chairs a few years back.  The girls hand painted it.  They also painted a computer screen for their store using a cardboard box.  The refrigerator is full of realistic play food, the cabinets are stocked with pantry items and dishes.  The girls each have an apron. I bought them a small ironing board and gave them an old iron of mine after cutting the cord.  An old vacuum cleaner (my favorite Oreck), telephones, junk mail, and play money make the imagination play endless. I just love the miniature appliances.  I’ve been served a many gourmet meal from this kitchen.  

Our favorite kitchen toys are from Green Toys.  They are high quality and realistic…making play fun.

  This room is a screened in porch with an outside entrance, and this makes it easy for our neighbors’ daughter to pop in just to play.  Sometimes I only know we have company because I hear the sounds from the playroom.  Funny. The time and money we have spent in this room is well worth it… and it continues to be a delight for my little ones.

Here is a great site to visit to get inspiration and/or instructions to make your own play kitchen.  Just click through all three pieces for instructions for an entire kitchen.
or visit this fantastic board on Pinterest

family · homeschooling · · kids · learning

Babies First

I sort of have two sets of kiddos…I like to call them my Bigs and Littles.  Between daughter number two and daughter number three there is 4 1/2 years.  Sophia is 4 years younger than her closest older sister and 4 years older than her little sister.  She is sort of too young and too old all at the same time.  She is Sophie in the middle. More on that later.  Most of the time I put Sophia in the Littles category…she is 8 years old.  But, I suspect that this year things will change.  3rd grade is a transitional year.  That leaves Elinor 4, and Samuel 1.  My babies.  Technically Elinor is a blossoming toddler, approaching 5, but she is still little in the sense that she needs and loves lots of attention from mommy.

And that brings me to the dilemma,or problem of this post…

Mommy’s attention, a commodity supplied to meet the needs and wants of the family.  A mom of many must have expert skills in commodity logistics.  She must learn how to distribute her attention well which encompasses a skill set that includes: time management, prioritizing, and conviction.

As I had more children I began to feel the pull and tug on my attention, and it irritated me… you know, those prickly moments when one thing has to be abandoned to meet the need or want of a baby.  I guess this is a growing stage for mothers, learning how to let go of self-direction and will and softening to the self giving style that characterizes all good mothers. Something inside of my mommy heart began to feel guilty when I dismissed a cry or arms up waiting to be scooped up. I quickly submitted to the reality of motherhood…babies are demanding and they deserve my full attention. I say no plenty, but it is not my style.  My style with babies is…yes!

When I step back and look at the very nature of child development it seems that babies deserve the most attention simply because they demand the most attention.  This is the natural way. This can only be accomplished in large families if I also follow the natural development of my older children.  I must let go of control and allow for independence.  Letting go of my older children is difficult for me…I know now it has everything to do with letting them grow up…I don’t want them to grow up so fast…it goes by so fast.

Dealing with my emotions as a mother is essential if I am to be a healthy mamma to ALL my kiddos.  So for me putting babies first is possible only if I accept the natural development and growth of a family.  In a way motherhood is a long goodbye.  I am ultimately raising children to be adults.  Letting my older kids be more independent, and trusting what I have already put into them is essential for the health of the family.

There are other instances where babies interrupt the practical goings on of a household.  Like how they always want you when you have plans to tackle the laundry pile on your bed, or the mountain of dishes in the sink, or the weedy flowerbeds.  Babies make me look very deeply at what I value and what it means to be human.  We are all dependent on each other, no human can survive alone.  Babies are so vulnerable, and they personify in a very dramatic way how vulnerable we all are.  Babies teach me the delicate balance between the unseen and seen world.  Yes, the physical needs of a child must be met, but not at the expense of the heart.  Finding this balance is what motherhood is all about.  We are caretakers of the highest order.

The decisions I make in the way I homeschool must include the babies…and not just putting them on the block schedule and fitting them in.  No, babies come first…because they demand it.  Because they need my full attention.  Because my heart tells me that the kind of human being this baby will become is deeply connected to how I respond in all the little moments of interruption.  

faith · family · homeschooling · kids · learning · motherhood · Orthodoxy · parenting

Homeschooling: Just keep practicing.

This is the time of year that I reflect on our home school journey… I evaluate, I ponder, and I make decisions.  I think it is better to do this now… at the end of the school year… rather than wait until fall when I will be hopelessly idealistic….right now I am a realist.  The end of a school year makes realists of most homeschool families.  This year we welcomed a new little fella into our lives, and man did I have a time trying to manage all of the schoolwork, housework, and activities with the joys and concerns of an infant. However, we did manage…we made it, and it was a great year! We are very blessed.

Homeschooling is a never-ending learning experience on so many levels.  It really is a lifestyle.  That is why home school articles are so peculiar.  Among articles detailing curriculum, schedules, and methods an inquirer will also find plenty of advice on relationships, homemaking, and spirituality.  And that really is the best home school advice..the kind that gets down to the reality of home life. I have often wanted to express to new homeschooling mothers the importance of getting the bones right, then worry about the books!  I am still working on the bones…it is my daily work.

One hard lesson I have learned this year is that juggling all the balls takes practice.  I keep dropping the balls… fumbling around with awkward hands. That means I have to stop, pick them up again, and keep practicing.

Do you ever feel like you drop the ball?

It is just part of the experience.  It takes humility to keep practicing…I pray for humility.

A friend once told me that four children were manageable by her own strength, but the fifth took God’s strength.  This mom has since graduated from nursing school…while homeschooling and raising five kiddos.  I am learning this lesson as I stubbornly try to manage by my own strength.

How does a mom learn to lean on God’s strength?  Isn’t that just an overused cliche…some pat answer we spout when no meaningful solution presents itself?


However, many times this year I have been at my rope’s end. And in those moments, among the chaotic emotional noise, there is also peace…it’s like a deep well that I must descend.  Go deeper..dig deeper..into the peace of God.  In those moments I have a choice. I can accept my imperfection, stand before God with an honest heart, and pray, “Lord, help me.”  Leaning on God’s strength does not mean that He rescues me from this life..this life I chose.  No, it means that He helps me.  He just helps me.  And this co-op…this cooperation… is what homeschooling is ALL about.

In the spirit of humility we take on the task of Raising Them Right…it is hard work.  It takes strength beyond ourselves.  As I make plans for next year I feel more than ever before that I will need help.  Join me here as I take you through my process…maybe we can inspire one another, pray for one another, and encourage one another to keep practicing.  Check back for a few inspiring topics!

Would the Perfect Mother Please Stand Up?
When to Call in Reinforcements
Is Technology My Friend?
Babies First
Homeschooling Tweens & Teens
Where is Sophie?  How not to forget the middle children.
The Domestic Church  

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fun · gardening · · kids · learning · projects · rabbits

Rabbit Project

Just a few pics from the 4-H Project Show.  It is good family fun, and a great learning experience.  We are considering a new breed for our Bunny Barn….Holland Lops.  We have never raised a small breed rabbit, but we are excited to try.  We are hoping that a smaller breed will be easier for Elinor and Sophia to manage.  Our Satins are a large breed meat rabbit…weighing about 10 pounds.  

We have also been discussing breeding our rabbits for meat.  So far we have only showed our stock, but hopefully this fall we can begin to breed for food!  A friend told me that there are excellent YouTube instructional videos for butchering rabbits.  My dad also knows how to do this.  We tried once, but I backed out.  It’s hard to butcher a rabbit that has a name…different strategy next time. 
When choosing a breed it is good to know what you desire from the rabbit project.  Do you want a pet, a meat rabbit, a show rabbit, or you may want to become a breeder and sell your stock.  Gourmet restaurants buy rabbit from reputable breeders. And small breed rabbits sell well during the Easter and Christmas season.  Also it is good to research how to house your animal.  We have hanging cages.  Rabbits are not heat tolerant animals, and that makes keeping them alive in the summer months a difficult job.  We have fans installed in the barn, and a sprinkler on the barn roof that comes on during the hottest part of the day.   
Rabbit droppings are an excellent fertilizer for your garden as well.  It is not hot, therefore you can just spread it on the garden without drying it or letting it sit.  It is impossible to burn up your garden with rabbit droppings.  
These are just a few things to consider when deciding if rabbits are right for you. 

fun · · kids · projects

Piano, Piano, Piano

 Adalay Cait 
 Caroline Beth
Sophia Teress
 Mini Sonatina No.2, Movement I by Jane Smisor Bastien
“All the Better For Her” from Sense and Sensibility by Patrick Doyle
Winking Star by James Bastien
Brother John by James Bastien

Sarabande by George Frederick Handel
Siciliana from Sonata No.2 for flute and harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach