Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

The day after Thanksgiving...For most it probably means shopping, and maybe some extended rest time, especially if you joined the madness at 2am. For us, it's been a time for tidying up a messy kitchen, catching up on some neglected chores (laundry, ahem) and chilling. And studying, for Toby.
We had a great time yesterday. We watched some of the parade in the morning, though it was the Philly parade, since they're the only ones who will stream things online. The kids were baffled at why they kept singing Christmas songs and "doing Christmas-y things" when it's only Thanksgiving. Good question, really.
I pottered around in the kitchen with some ham and parsnips to keep me company. Since about 5 for so families had planned to meet up for Thanksgiving dinner, we all took responsibility for different parts - I made honey mustard parsnips and ham to share. Interestingly, most folks had never had a parsnip before and weren't really sure what it was. Granted, I didn't exactly grow up eating them either. I'm not sure how everyone felt about them - I know people ate them, and I didn't see anyone gagging on them, so I'll take that to be a good sign. The ham was okay, but not great. The funny thing about the ham is that Toby bought a 7lb piece of meat, which we decided probably wouldn't be enough, so he bought a second, equally-sized joint. Out of the 14lbs of meat we brought, I figure we all ate about 5lbs of it - needless to say, we'll be eating ham-based leftovers for a little while.
When we all got home, we were so very tired! I'm not really sure what was so taxing, but the little kids were in bed by 7pm, and the big ones followed a half hour later. The girls took books to bed, but no one really complained about an early night. Poor Toby - as soon as we walked in the door, he crashed. He'd been fighting a runny nose and some congestion all day, so by the evening, he was done. It was good, however, to get a very good night's sleep.
Here's to a restful and enjoyable holiday weekend, for one and all!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. (Newsflash, right?)

I figure most families have their own traditions they observe around Thanksgiving.  I suspect most families feature food, football, and the Macys Parade in there somewhere. Because we spent our first 9 Thanksgivings in a country that doesn't observe this particular holiday, our traditions were basically limited to a turkey dinner when Toby got home from work. When we moved to the US, we had some more options regarding how we'd like to celebrate this particular holiday, but not a whole lot of ingenuity. Over the past few years, we've started including a few things that would help us find some middle ground between crazed crafting excess and total inertia. Things like:
  • Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember by Barbara Rainey. I don't remember where we got this book and CD from, but it's been such a blessing. The artwork in the book is lovely, and the narrator on the CD is excellent. I don't know about you but the reader can really make or break a story. Going over the history of the Thanksgiving story, it's an excellent reminder of what this holiday is about, and inspires more things to give thanks for (like not having to endure a 6 month ocean crossing when I moved!).
  • Not shopping.
I know that this is a big thing this year, but this is something that our family has observed for years. For holidays of any kind, if you're shopping, someone else has to be manning the store so that you can do so. How about we all stay home with our families, as far as is possible?
  • Simple crafts. By simple, I don't mean needing a dozen Martha Stewart supplies and several hours-worth of drying time. I mean things like everyone writing down 3 things they're thankful for on some leaves or something. Color in a hand-shaped turkey. Make a construction-paper pilgrim hat. Pin the feather on the turkey. Pinterest has loads of ideas, of course, but remember - if it's likely to take longer than half an hour or increase the stress level exponentially, skip it.
  • Play some games. Holidays are the perfect time to unearth those underplayed games. Except Monopoly. Never play Monopoly if you want to encourage familial peace and harmony. Play word games, charades, games that just make you laugh. Then be thankful for the ability and opportunity to laugh.
Tomorrow, we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with some of the other Pastor's College families, and it's going to be a blast. We won't be shopping, we'll do some simple crafts and play some games, and we'll definitely be watching some football. We're really looking forward to it. What will your family be doing?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sharing the Love

I've been knitting for about 6 years, and in that time I've made hats, blankets, sweaters, etc. I've learned a few tips and tricks, but I'd never tried socks...until now!
I bought some beautiful, autumnal colored Noro Taiyo sock yarn at the local yarn store (props to Sophie's Fine Yarn Shoppe!) with some birthday money (still working through the birthday gift money!) before our trip to Orlando last month, with the commitment that now was the time to try to tackle the sock project. With confirmation that the TSA would, in fact, allow circular knitting needles on board a plane, I was ready for travel.
 It took a while to settle on a beginner-type sock pattern, and I eventually chose the Noro Stripey Sock pattern. I didn't go with two different colors for the true striping, but just knit my way through the yarn and let the chips fall where they may. They fell pleasantly, I think.
They are warm, colorful, soft and lovely. There is one problem, though - they are somewhat...large. Like really large. I know it's mainly because I used size 3 needles instead of the size 1 or 2, as suggested. It's at times like these where I must acknowledge that somethings are simply meant to be. In this case, it is my husband who was clearly meant to have these new socks. And he loves them, of course - they are warm, colorful, soft and lovely.
So, I got to learn a new knitting skill, and Toby got some new hand knit love. A win-win scenario, for sure.

Friday, November 22, 2013

This week, I'm...

...reading a few books, including Grace for the Good Girl, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, and some library books on my Kindle. I'm loving that little machine! I use it on the exercise bike, in bed (where I can see the screen with the lights off), and I've downloaded some school pdfs to assist in our schoolwork. Excellent.

...listening to Pandora a lot. Sometimes it's Adele radio, sometimes 80s cardio mix (Vanilla Ice, anyone?), sometimes PG Comedy. I like the comedy if I'm cooking at night. It makes the work seem less like work. Our old CD player broke shortly before our move and we never got around to replacing it, so Pandora is where it's at.

...knitting this little something for Dan. It's been good to use up some yarn I've had hanging around for ages, and this boy needs some extra warm stuff, but the pattern isn't grabbing me. I don't know why, I think perhaps I'm not paying as close attention as I ought. I  think it'll pick up when the neck decreases finish and I start doing the body.

...playing games with my kids. I know that for a lot of superstar parents out there, this is a daily event, but that's not really how I roll. Usually by the end of the day, I've had enough interaction that a groupon to a sensory deprivation tank sounds like a real treat, but I've been trying to push the limits of my comfort zone in an attempt to bless my children. A couple of times it kind of back fired (more like a conflagration), but mostly, it's been kind of cool.

...getting excited about the holidays - isn't most everyone? We're staying local and having Thanksgiving with about half of the PC families this year, which will be mega fun, I'm sure. Christmas will have us heading back east to do some visiting. I'm a little daunted by the travelling, but I'm choosing not to think too much about that yet...

...being thankful for a healthy family. So many are coming down with the dreaded lurgy, but so far, we are unaffected. Watch this space...

...proud of my kiddos. Sure, there are times when I can totally understand why some animals eat their young, but I've been seeing lots of grace in my kids. Ellie is just beginning to sound out small words, I regularly get offers of help in the kitchen, Abi and Anna really seem to enjoy helping Ellie and Dan with their workbooks on occasion, and it's so sweet when an older kid sits down to read a story to littler one.

...proud of my husband, too. The man works so hard, loves what he's doing, and doesn't mind being ragged on for being the "old man" in the class (on his Greek quiz this week, he had to translate "Toby is old but cool" from Greek to English. No joke.). He spends time with all these crazy children every day, changes diapers, takes me on dates and lets me beat him at bowling (but just the one time). And I don't think I know anyone who loves to serve as much as him. And he's mine, so back off. :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Do the hard thing

Have you ever been faced with a decision, little or large, where you know what you ought to do but you don't really want to? I'm not referring to some great moral dilemma or anything, just really a niggling sense of needing to make a wise choice?

Recently, I had to make a decision about my phone. Since I've had a smart phone, I've always plugged it in at night on my night stand, where little fingers rarely came, where I could reach it for late night/early morning texts, use it as my alarm clock and general bedside amusement (autocorrects kill me). It's been great, but I've been noticing a trend in my phone use: alarm goes off, so I turn it off. The phone is now in my hand, so I can check email from under the covers. Then, I check to see if anything interesting has been posted on Facebook (seriously?), and maybe have a look at Pinterest. Perhaps a news story will catch my attention, so I'll take a quick look at that. At this point, I've blown at least a half an hour and have little time left for reading my Bible and praying before I hit the bike and shower.

In short, my phone has become a bedside distraction.

So, I have decided to evict my phone from my room. It now gets plugged in at my desk in the schoolroom at night, and I can pick it up in the morning. It takes some getting used to, but it's a lot easier to pick up my Bible in the morning now that my cheerful, little time-thief has been relegated to another room.

Sometimes, we just need to make the difficult decision, do the hard thing. What "ought-to" are you wrestling with right now? Whatever it is, get to it, while today is still called "today". It'll be worth it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Little boy sweater

 As the weather turns colder, I've become aware that I seem to knit for my girls more than my boys...or else my boys outgrow their woolies faster. Either way, Caleb was found to be lacking in the hand-knit department. I promise, it is possible.
 I'd had this pattern queued up for a while to try, and with one skein of Cascade 220, it was the perfect thing. And since it only took a few days to do, it fit well within my "almost-instant gratification" requirements.
 Clearly, I had to get food in his hand if I was going to have any chance of getting a photo of him. They're not very good (I really must use my good camera more often), but you've got a gorgeous boy in a cute sweater, eating a banana. What else do you need?

Friday, November 15, 2013

At present...

...I am enjoying the settled peace that descends upon a house where are children are asleep in their beds and a husband is out of town. Very soon, the quiet will be too quiet, lacking the noise of a man studying, but for now, it's nice.
...This evening had several of the PC wives and kiddos visit a local deli that is foolish enough to offer free kids' meals - we know how to make good use of that offer!
...I've been enjoying the leaves on the trees and the brilliant colors they turn, but that seems to be done now. Last Friday, the county sent some street sweepers around to collect any leaves we could blow into the street. We cleared the whole front yard of leaves - the kids worked hard, and it looked great. Now, the leaves are falling so thick and fast, you'd never have known we ever picked up a rake.
...Since we've been here, I have been using my phone as my alarm clock, as I'm sure most people do. I've been finding, though, that it acts as quite a distraction, sucking time from more noble reading pursuits. So, I've resurrected my old alarm clock and will relegate my phone charging to some other place, in the hopes of making better use of my time.
...For history, we are reading through a book called The Children of the Covered Wagon, about the emigrants who headed west in the mid-1800s. As we read, I am reminded afresh how thankful I am to live in the time and place we do, with plentiful medical care, easy travel, and flush toilets. It never ceases to amaze me what some of these incredible people were willing to endure - suffering loss after loss, yet pressing on with a perseverance I know little of.
...Last week, for history, we were learning about the Alamo, and the lesson plans included a suggestion for the children to watch the 1960 classic The Alamo, with John Wayne. I thought it sounded like a good idea, so without previewing it, we streamed it free through Amazon. The first 2 or so hours (stretched out over 3 days) was okay, though somewhat slow. When we finally got to the battle itself, I realized I'd made a major parenting fail - Ellie had her hands over her eyes and was squeaking, and the others were horrified! They were simply unprepared and rather upset to see these brave "characters" who they'd come to like, killed in battle, even though they knew how it all ended. The one redeeming factor in it came out when it occurred to me to mention that they men in the movie were not the actual men in the story, but actors - no one died in the making of that film. That helped quite a bit, but my lesson has been learned - always preview your movies, even in the curriculum company recommends it!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How it really is

I'd like to let you all in on a little secret: that homeschool family that seems to have it all together? They don't. Ask me how I know...
I think there is a simple truth that applies in almost every area of life - we only see what we are shown. To put it another way, we see what someone is willing to show us, and that's often the sweet, lovely, crafted, Photoshop-ped version of life. I do think, though, that there is a unique temptation within the homeschool community to idolize and hero-worship "that" family. Whether we actively homeschool or simply interact with homeschoolers, we need to be aware of this fact, because believing that the highlights (or gag reel) are the whole show does everyone a disservice. 
What am I talking about?
  • The family who started school in July because the kids were so excited to get into their new books? Those kids still would probably rather ditch school to play in the dirt/leaves/snow/water, if given half the chance.
  • The mom who taught her baby to sit quietly on her lap while she teaches her older kids? That baby still cries when she teethes, does horrendous diapers and wants to be held when there are no free hands.
  • The oldest child who's a great help around the house? It took a lot of time, energy and dedication to train him, and that's still no guarantee that he will always do his best effort, every time, cheerfully.
  • The husband who faithfully sends his wife out for a couple hours of alone time every week? He may still leave the toilet seat up, his socks on the couch, or forget their anniversary.
  • That amazing lady who has a clean home, scrapbooks, serves in church and has great hair/nails/workouts? She works extremely hard to make it happen, probably gets help in some area, and doesn't do everything. Maybe she doesn't watch the latest TV shows, read a lot of books or get enough sleep. Anyway you slice it, she doesn't do something.
Why do I mention this? Because I think we are all so used to looking around and seeing our weaknesses and failures in someone else's strengths and successes, that we are unable to be grateful, we are unable to recognize God's working, and we are unable to bless.

Grateful - I might not scrapbook, but I'm sure thankful my mom does. She made me a scrapbook with all sorts of incredible family history in it. I couldn't have done it, and wouldn't have enjoyed it if I tried, but now I have this wonderful collection of family history to thank God for and show my children. I don't feel bad that I don't make a scrapbook for each of my children every year, but I'm grateful that my mom has those skills and passions.

God is working - Most of my kids are not self-starters and they often drive each other nuts, which makes it all the sweeter when one kid will read to the others, when one of them works extra hard at an assignment, or when one chooses to share with or encourage another. God is at work in their lives, even if it's not always obvious, because He loves them.

Be a blessing - When I've looked at my friends with eyes of envy, I've failed to notice where they may be in need. Maybe the hard work of child training is discouraging, maybe she's exhausted from another sleepless night, or maybe, just maybe, she's simply needing to hear how much God loves her and that you'll be praying for her. Wouldn't you like to hear that, too?

Rather than spending my time thinking about how someone else's life looks and how mine doesn't quite measure up, I want to spend more time thanking God for the grace in their lives, looking for the grace in my own family's life, and seeing how God would have us serve and bless those around us. Cause no one's got it all together this side of Glory, and I don't want to miss all He's doing right here, right now.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tea for Abigail

 Abigail is probably my most difficult child to knit for. Perhaps it's because she's the oldest and has the most developed sense of her own style, or maybe just because she's no longer young enough for me to say "I knit that thing for you, so you're gonna wear it!" and have that be enough. Regardless, I view her to be my personal knitting challenge, always trying to find the thing that we'll both like and that she'll actually wear.

 So far, she's been getting some wear out of this new Tea Leaves Cardigan. She chose the pink trim to compliment the blue, and I think it was a good choice - it brightens up the overall look and goes well with some of her standard clothing selections.

It does appear, however, that she's gotten rather comfortable with her new threads quite quickly - I caught her sneaking out into the back yard last night because she had left her new sweater in the tree earlier in the afternoon. So, if you happen to see a sweater that looks like this one lying around anywhere, you know where to return it, don't you? Thanks... 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Presently, I am... thankful for the recent change in weather - finally put away shorts and flip flops and pulled out the woolens! Autumn is my favorite time of year - the trees turn into a firework display, and it makes me so happy!

...reading several books, including Jesus + Nothing = Everything and a biography of Susannah Spurgeon. I've been in a spate of fiction, which was a nice break for my brain, but it's time to read some more edifying stuff.

...knitting my first pair of socks, a sweater for Caleb and a bookmark. Always something to keep my hands busy.

...enjoying turning my girls loose in the kitchen. They've been making all sorts of cookies that I wouldn't have the patience for, and they love it! I'm not as enthusiastic about how the leave the kitchen, but it's an area we're working on.

...battling some pain in my elbow. I'm not sure what tennis elbow really is, but it feels as if I've pulled something. Praying rest and pain killers do the job!

...watching Caleb getting bigger and cuter everyday. He's started taking some steps here and there, and between that and his sweet little chatter, he's just about the cutest thing ever.
...needing to improve in my planning sessions. It always seems to need more time than I am willing to give it, but I'm needing to spend some time planning school, inviting folks over for hospitality, and Christmas gifts. At least the bills are getting paid!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Living History

A couple weeks ago, we had an opportunity to visit Locus Grove, a local historical estate known to be a stopping place for the Lewis & Clark expedition. They had an 18th century battle reenactment and camp that was really interesting!
 They did their "pomp and circumstance" thing, where none of us really knew what was going on... to see some old-time cooking and meet interesting people, including the local rat-catcher...
 ...smell some really delicious food...
 ...see how life in the camps was for those who travelled with the soldiers...
 ...and how even the most basic necessities had to be made. The best part of it all is that this isn't a job for the people involved, but it's something they did for fun - it was clear that they really enjoyed what they were doing and sharing it with others.
It was also clear that these people are the sort you want on your team if you're ever dropped in the middle of nowhere. There's not much they wouldn't be able to handle...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Home again

Well, our trip to Orlando was a joy, and I'm so thankful we were able to go! A great resort, beautiful weather and a soul-encouraging conference over three days - fabulous.
To listen or read the transcripts of some of the messages, visit the Plant & Build blog. It would be time well spent.
It was also a joy for us to meet with some of the folks from our Maryland church, as well as meet some new faces. There are a couple of churches in New England that are very interested in seeing more churches planted in that area, so Toby and I got to talk to them and hear their vision for what God is doing in that part of the country. Of course, anyone you talk to is excited to tell you about how wonderful their area is and how they'd love to see God's kingdom advance there, but we were surprised to learn how few Sovereign Grace churches exist in New England - there are 2 in Massachusetts, and that. is. it.
So, we're continuing to pray and consider how God will direct us when Pastor's College is complete. We are tentatively considering visiting one of the Mass. churches over the Christmas break to get a feel for the place and the people, but there are no done deals as yet. At the moment, we're praying and working and studying (well, Toby's studying), seeking to make the most of the year we have here in Louisville.
Please to pray for God's direction and guidance for our family, both this year and all the adventures that are yet to come!