The Arts

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel guilty for pausing in the day from work? We know there is the Sabbath, but do we actually partake? I’m not talking about the Sunday-strict-by-the-law sort, but an actual rest from work. I just know that I tend to go from project to project and get frustrated when I’m behind or when life interrupts me. But life is living and breathing around me and it will interrupt in the form of phone calls and kids falling and a books wanting to be read and music needing to be listened to. Ever wonder why the pull is so strong to stop and give in to the interruptions? Now I’m not saying we do it responsibly…I’ve had my fair share of anger at not accomplishing what I’d intended to, unintended towards little ones.

Today I had a mission to finish our bunk bed-rearrange-the-whole-house-in-the-process project. If I could just get to the hardware store, pick up a few items I would be back on track and ready to work. But my umpah left me. I did get to the store. I kinda started to put up some shelves. A gate got put up. And the regular maintenance of cooking, laundry, dishes stayed afloat. But I couldn’t find my rhythm. I just kept feeling pulled to listen to music, to sit with the littles and read stories, to just sit in a chair and stair at the one shelf of reorganized books and say, “It is good!” I started to feel guilty about the day slipping by and my work being pushed aside. That is, until I read this:

Olivier Messiaen was 31 years old and a French composer when he was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.

Olivier was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose his music. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote a quartet with these specific players in mind. His composition was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp.

Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire and his Quartet for the End of Time is considered one of the most profound musical compositions of all time.

Why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music in a concentration camp? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture—why would anyone bother with music?

And yet—from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art.


Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life.

The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art.

Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are.

Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive…”

~An address given by Karl Paulnack

Thank you, Ann, for yet again inspiring me just when I needed it. And I emphatically add that you MUST go read the whole article (just click Karl’s link above)!!! And then I would add this quote from him:

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we cannot with our minds.

Oh how much better I felt. And tonight I will let the lost alphabet puzzle pieces lie where they might, which is NOT in the puzzle board! And I will leave the miscellaneous shelf pieces on the kitchen table and I will drink a cup of tea with my husband and then listen to really good music from here: Enjoying the Small Things.

And to end the night on, another poem rising from the ashes of a concentration camp by our beloved Bonhoeffer in preparation for Lent, when we might be tempted more then other times to give up the Arts!

I Cannot Do This Alone

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me…

Restore me to liberty,
And enable me to live now
That I may answer before you and before me.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised

– a poem included in Devotions for Lent, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Homeschool Freebies

Just wanted to let you know about a wonderful site that I visit weekly called Homeschool Freebie of the Day! When you subscribe they send you one email each Monday with that week’s lineup of free things you can download to your computer. It is an eclectic, wonderful mix of things ranging from old children’s picture books now out of print and unavailable, to nature studies, to history audio stories, to phonics primers, and everything in between! Some weeks I end up downloading almost all available and other weeks am not really interested in what they’re offering. But it is nice to be contacted by people who are taking the time to get homeschooling resources into mother’s hands for free. I would encourage you all to visit and partake. You have one week to get what they have available and then it is gone.

Click here to visit the site: Homeschool Freebie of the Day and have some fun today!

Today’s prime choices:

Wholesome Comic Books for Children

The Adventures of PETER WHEAT! (Two PDF comic books) – Okay, get ready for something completely different! Today we want to introduce you to PETER WHEAT and the folk of the wheat field, beautifully drawn by the great Walt Kelly (creator of “Pogo”). These little known comics were originally published in 1950 as giveaways for local “Peter Wheat” bakeries. Though long “lost” and out of print, these contain some wonderfully exciting and fun adventures, and Kelly’s marvelous artwork make them especially attractive to young readers.

We’ve got two rollicking good stories for you today: In “Bitsy and the Beanstalk”, Peter’s little friend Bitsy has been hoodwinked by a sly fox… but brings home some magic beans that lead him straight to giant land. In “The River Adventure”, Peter and Sammy Sweet must ford the river to deliver flour to the bakers, but a hungry otter tries to make them his lunch!

Give these a chance and see what your kids think of these – we think they are going to become instant Peter Wheat fans! They are great for read alouds and for reading practice too.

A Living Book on Grammar. Did you think it had to be all text book? Think again! Charlotte Mason would be proud!

Grammar Land: Or Grammar In Fun for the Children of Schoolroom-Shire, by M. L. Nesbitt (PDF ebook) – Back by popular demand — A classic story book that makes learning grammar a delight! “What is Grammar Land? Where is Grammar Land? Have you ever been to Grammar Land? Wait a minute and you shall hear…” In this classic read aloud book, published way back in 1878, author Nesbitt creates an amazing fantasy land not unlike “Alice In Wonderland”, where the citizens are the nine parts of speech (Mr. Proper Noun, Dr. Verb, Little Article, etc.) and all are governed by the stern but wise old Judge Grammar. It’s a fun, fascinating way to learn some of the basic grammar rules all the while carried along by the very memorable characters and a wild adventure to boot. Highly recommended!

Here’s what one of our readers recently posted about this book:

I had downloaded this book and completely forgot about it until 2 days ago. I started reading it aloud to my boys and they were completely into it. My boys are very wiggly and they usually have to have something in their hands to occupy their physical while their mental is focused on what I am reading. They were completely still…following along on the computer screen. It was one of those awesome moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Thank you for finding and sharing something that is so fun and educational at the same time. What a fun way to learn parts of speech. I’ve a feeling this story will stick with them for a while. The resources you list through the week are wonderful.

Seeking Him First

This past week has been a weekend of growth in seeking Him first. Jesus is teaching me how to follow Deuteronomy 6 – talking to my children when they rise, along the way in the day, when they lie at night. If you are anything like me, we somehow think this needs to be a more formal thing. But I am quickly discovering, as with all of the heavy spiritual stuff, it is actually in the mundane of life.

Gabe has been struggling with the concept of miracles. I have been struggling with obeying the prompting of a new schedule. And the Lord brought us together beautifully like a perfectly played chord. As I sat with the kids (completely tired and not wanting to) and opened our Children’s Bible, we read the story of Jesus asking his disciples to cast their nets. As I am reading I feel prompted by the Spirit to talk about why he would do this. Why fish? Why something so ordinary? Why this time of day? Suddenly I remembered all Gabe’s statements about miracles only being back then and not now. As Peter says (my paraphrase), “Why now Lord when there are no fish? But yet I will do as you command.” It strikes me that he is obeying and being blessed with the ordinary in life. We somehow think that God works in the extraordinary yet we always find Him in the ordinary doing the extraordinary.

I thought of our summer filled with job loss. I thought on the myriad of ways God took care of us and provided in little ways – ways that could be construed by some as coincidental but when put together in number and order and perfect planning turn into quite the miracles! This I explained to Gabe. The ordinary fish suddenly made sense. And it began to grow in his heart that miracles are not filled with bangs and fireworks (unless they’re babies being born, of course!) but with small details attended to by a very BIG God!

Later in the morning as we are searching and searching and searching for 2 library books gone AWOL, when everyone is in tears and frustrated and angry, when our basement is piled high with couch cushions and couch crumbs blanket the floor, when toys are dumped out to find overlooked hiding spots, when under beds are emptied and the bedroom can’t be walked through due to the sheer amount of stuff piled in the middle, only then do I feel that tiny prick in my heart. I stop to hear the still small voice. And I hear,

“Why are you trying so hard? I am right here…right in the midst of this too. You can come to me, even now. I can show them that I AM even in this minor irritation. Can you show them how to look for me right now?”

So I gather everyone around and we pray. We pray our eyes and minds will be opened to new spots. It was not a fancy prayer. It was not a long prayer. It did not “sound” like a spiritual prayer. Yet ten minutes later, after we had spent over 6 hours looking, the books fell into our laps. The kids eyes were bugging out of their head. They remembered our morning reading about miracles in the ordinary. They remembered our many talks on God not answering prayer right away. And Gabe, in awe, whispered that he’d never have to wonder about miracles again. God really does answer prayer! Oh how my heart praised! For it had nothing to do with library books at all, but everything to do with a parent being there talking, listening, and pointing to the Savior that we want our children to drink from. For this I am thankful!

88) Prayers answered no matter how trivial they seem.

89) Little hearts open to HIM who fills.

90) The Golden Guide Children’s Bible that knows a child can handle the big language of the Word, not the dumbed-down wording of most children’s bible stories.

91) For music that feeds the soul.

92) For acts of charity that seem to stretch us and demand more then we are able to give.

93) For Doxology’s and Ancient Hymns.

94) For trash out before I’m bleared-eyed in the morning.

95) For a little girl who says “pppooookkkeeeyyy” (translated spooky) with the finger wriggling to go with.

96) For the Morning Dew that can take us through a day when all looks parched.

97) A husband who suggests videos that grow us together.

98) The weight of deep sleep against my arms.

99) For recycled paper and ideas that turn the ordinary into exactly what I need.

100) For audio books that fill little ears with unabridged beautiful language.

101) The bird I heard chirping amidst the snow signaling the first sign of spring’s return.

102) Crunchy vegetables to satisfy cravings as the comforted heaviness of winter’s food wanes.

103) Monks who are teaching me how to lay down my life.

104) Spontaneous questions that can only come with having a whole day in front of us with no outside commitments.

105) Mismatched, eclectic musical styles – the real, the Holy, the self-focused, the deeply moving, the crazy dancing jigs – because I can’t figure out how to organize my itunes.

106) Long winded words of females I respect and trust who make me pause and reconsider and who lead me to new, longer winded words that knock the breath out of me.

107) My baby who is suckling and not sleeping like she’s suppose to be.

108) Reflections of birth stories and journaling and speaking with purpose.

109) HIS hand right in front of my face – a centimeter away – and, Yes!, I can feel it.

110) A pouring out of love at 1ish in the morning.

111) Little girls who wake up dry.

112) A boy who wrote his very first letter.

113) And who spelled his very first word on my fridge.

114) Space museum, Zoo, and Forest playdates to look forward to.

115) A big brother who read a bedtime story to an eager little sister.

116) A big sister who delights in playing with the baby while mommy is working.

117) Ice in water quenching my parched throat.

118) No runny noses or meds to dole out.

119) Getting the bills done in one sitting of the baby’s nap.

120) Being credit card debt free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

121) Owing nothing to the hospital.

122) Still being delighted by snow crystals on the window pane.

123) Waking up to sunshine instead of darkness.

124) My handmade rose curtains that still delight me to look through.

holy experience

Dearest Adam…

I was sitting here typing out a draft of my blog for tomorrow…hoping to save time. While I was thinking I was perusing and catching up on blogs I haven’t read in a while. And I came across a link which led me to this I’m going to share. And I read it while listening to David Crowder Band’s “Doxology” and Blue October’s “Drop” and my breath was taken away and I remembered our video shared together and I cried and I remembered the orange flower and I thought of our children. Just read and you will understand.

Nella Cordelia’s Birth Story

I love you!


The Learning Room

February 8-19

I’m glad I now write down what it is that we actually do during the week. Since we’ve been sick I’ve not been very motivated to “do school” everyday and we have just done a little here and a little there formally and a lot of child-led interests informally as prompted. But writing it down today – even if it pans two weeks instead of one – let’s me know that we did just fine and that I really don’t have to stress about getting it all squeezed in!


  • Finally finished Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag.
  • Read A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution.
  • Practiced memorizing the 13 colonies by singing them to the tune of Yankee Doodle (and Lily was pretty proud that she actually memorized the words to Yankee Doodle as well!).
  • Made Colonial Paper Dolls including: Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Washington, a Redcoat, a Patriot, Betsy Ross, and a colonial boy.
  • Read IF You: Lived in Colonial Times (kids thought there were some pretty weird things people did – a very kid-friendly book).
  • Narrations of the colonial times.


  • Gabe – finished chapter 15 practice pages and test, watched video 16, did practice page 16A (multiplying by 8)
  • Lily – watched video 21, did practice pages 21A & B (finding the missing sum); worked on abacus
  • Luc – working on counting (and I mean counting EVERYTHING!); counting puzzle

Language Arts

  • Latin ~ Gabe learned new words non, ad; reviewed flashcards
  • Literature ~ Read more chapters from Pippi Longstocking and Return to the Hundred Acre WoodsAudio ~ started listening to Artemis Fowl
  • Grammar ~ Gabe ~ worked on alphabetizing and synonyms, practiced using a thesaurus; Lily ~ learned about the question mark and practiced reading and writing sentences with question marks
  • Penmanship ~ Gabe ~ cursive X; Lily ~ capital and lowercase E, F, G
  • Phonics ~ Lily ~ has really taken off with practicing reading on her own with all kinds of books around the house and is more interested in trying to read to the little ones. Luc ~ has blossomed in ways that I didn’t see coming. All of the sudden he is putting the letter sounds he hears together and asking what words spelled. The other day he spelled cat for me after figuring it out in his head. He will be reading before we know it! Delilah ~ has still wanted to watch Letter Factory every day and we have added in Talking Words Factory to supplement her learning and Luc’s desire to spell and make words. Both Luc and Lilah received an alphabet puzzle and that has been the highlight of their week. Luc is using it to spell words and Lilah is using it to practice letter sounds.


  • Everything Dinosaurs ~ Watched all three Jurassic Park movies. (That’s educational right? I must say I actually knew what every single dinosaur was called this time! And it did inspire me to reread the books again.) Then watched the Nova special The Real Jurassic Park, which Lily kept informing us was boring but Luc wouldn’t let us turn it off.
  • Listened to my new mix of Science songs (kids favorites: Electricity, The Elements, The Sun song, and the Friction song – all of which I’ve heard them humming around the house while playing!).
  • Gabe – played Snap Circuits electricity set.
  • Gabe – made pretend snot and discovered what mucus is used for in the body with his Disgusting Science Kit.


Socializing and Friends

While I constantly hear from family and friends about their well-meaning concerns over the socialization of my kids in what their imaginations must picture – my kids sulking in a quiet house with no outlet for their true passions – I just have to laugh on weeks like this.  After two weeks of being sick, we were finally able to get out of the house this week. We did do some schooling…mainly out of books that are overdue back to the library and a bit of math, but mostly spent the week socializing.

  • Monday ~ Took kids out for a day of shopping where they got to jump on bunk beds and talk the sales lady’s ear off about spelling bees, dinosaurs, and how to spell supercalafragilisticexpealadocious; type on notepads and ask a million questions about computers in the Electronics department; and eat at a restaurant while getting to practice table manners.
  • Tuesday ~ Partook in a Homeschool Coop Valentine’s Day Party full of Chicken Parmesan in red sauce with pasta for dinner, chocolate brownies for desert, exchanging Valentine’s cards, and party favors with home-made white chocolate heart lollipops for the kids. All in all – a big, gooey, chaotic happy mess!
  • Wednesday ~ Spent morning at 2nd Cup (bible class for me; socializing, phys ed and playtime for kids with friends). We came home and cleaned up the house so that we could entertain friends who are moving for dinner. Adam got to cook and Lily, Luc, and Delilah ran around with their friends and played dress-up and dinosaurs all night while Gabe got to go to Pop’s church where he visited more of his friends.
  • Thursday ~ Aunt Becky and Uncle Chuck came over for homemade pizza and got to visit with the kids.
  • Saturday (tomorrow) ~ Will be going to the library and returning a mountain of overdue books (due to being sick last week). The kids will get to play with others in the children’s section with puzzles and the puppet theater.
  • Sunday ~ We will go to church and attend Sunday School where the kids will get to participate in worship then spend class time with peers learning and crafting together.

I must say that next week  I  look forward to slowing down and being a bit of a homebody. I am tired from all the running around and socialing!

Breaking Things Down

holy experience

Now some may say that today was a horrible-no-good-very-bad-day when they awoke to find their dryer, of under a year old, had broken and there sits a load of completely wet cloth diapers for the day with a full load of soaked clothes that have no prospects of drying themselves and, at least, two more load of clothes to wash yet with another load of diapers that will need to be done that night.

But I say, “Pish! Surely the Lord can handle this too!” Well, I wish I had said that. But I was calm as Adam called the bank and found out that indeed our tax refund had been deposited. Thank You, Lord I whispered, smiling as I wiped up the breakfast crumbs and sticky syrup off the table.

The Lord rearranged our day and we set aside school to purchase a new dryer and let kids stress test bunk beds. And when we left…the beds were thoroughly stressed and our new dryer is being delivered tomorrow! Surely this marking the thanks is impressing on my heart remembrance and bringing peace during trials thrown my way! Of that alone, I am grateful!

67) A banister long enough to trail diapers out to dry in the mid of winter.

68) Full tummies to nourish us while we shop.

69) Cash to pay in full, freeing us from the bondage of debt.

70) Sturdy pine planks that will last for years.

71) Five-year warranties to last us a while.

72) Heat sensitive technology that will use just enough energy to meet our needs.

73) Storage disguised as steps, safely leading little ones up.

74) A mother-in-law’s dryer to the rescue.

75) A rambuctious two-year old girl who wanted to stay with grandma instead of shop.

76) Dino carts that temporarily distract bored little boys.

77) French Fries that salve the glossy-eyed looks of being dragged through appliances.

78) Homemade hot cocoa mix to come home to.

79) Sweet girl asking to read the creation story.

80) Finishing dinosaur-tearing carnage from the Jurassic period series.

81) A grandfather seeing a need and filling a Yatzee chair.

82) A brother-in-law who chose this night to cook for everyone.

83) An email from a dear sister.

84) Anticipation of a Valentine’s Party.

85) A $25 Gift Certificate that just “happened” to show up this week to just the store we needed!

86) A dear church friend bequeathing food to fill our freezer.

87) Hearing about my mother gifting our food forward to someone else in need.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Some picture thoughts…

Our hand-made love banner...

...of kid-colored hearts strung in a row!

Waking up to homemade cards...

...and LOVE words...

...and small token gifts...

...chocolate, of course...

...and candy hearts!

Curls for Adam and a new Reader Tee!

Hearts worn on sleeves.

Crafts to be made.

Love books to read.

Soft, sweet baby naps!

I may be offline until V-day. Our house is under quarentine for quite a nasty cold that we just can’t seem to shake. The Doctor may be in order by Monday if this keeps up. My head feels like it is about to explode from sinus pressure. Until then I will leave you with this snippet from The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy. Read it while curled under covers late at night trying to warm my feet. Very appropriate for this season!

The season of colds, which ran all the way through to the end of February, started in November, when the magical, golden enchantment of autumn days (the wine of the seasons, when the year held its breath at the approach of frost and fire) turned into the raw damp of the back-end of the year, clogging leaves packed underfoot and chilling fog pervading everything. If I had to draw a picture of November, I think I would draw an old man in a grey macintosh, blowing his nose. Even the smoky delights of fireworks and baked potatoes on bonfire night do no more than hold off the depression of those creeping fingers of darkness and cold.

A gift from an ever-caring mother-in-law to ease my sufferings!

Lady Earl Grey hot and steeping just waiting to be adulterated with honey and milk!

Creative Play…Telling Stories

holy experience

Every person is made by love and we are love and we can’t stop makingLove makes. God is Word because He must express and we are made in His image…All our lives we all need to create because creativity is the life breath of our Creator Father and if we don’t create we breathe stale air and we wither dry.     ~Ann Voskamp (visit her beautiful creations here)

Yesterday I told of our wonderful “lazy” day off and the fun watercoloring technique that we discovered. Today I would like to share with you the beautiful results of that playing.

Lily started playing with just mixing colors in different combinations with the Tombow Dual-Brush pens.

Then she experimented with mixing colors using the watercolor technique.

Next she actually started working on a picture concept. This one is my favorite that she did…a caterpillar walking on a stormy day.

Then she turned it all into a mini book called “The Color Book”.  I just love it! She even binded it with rings and all. She is my master storyteller.

Gabe was rather frustrated at first (being our perfectionist) that the water just blurred up all the hard work he just did with the markers.

His first attempt.

After calming him down and explaining what watercoloring is and how it works and then demonstrating it for him, he finally got the hang of it and set off to make a mini book on caterpillars.

My demonstration on how to watercolor a woolly bear caterpillar.

He was soon mixing mediums, adding in details with Lyra colored pencils (a wonderful brand!).

What he added to my picture.

His finished picture.

A monarch caterpillar that he made for Lily.

We are made in HIS image. I think we sometime forget this, especially as followers of Christ, as we are working so hard at obeying the word and training up our children and keeping our home. But HE was the Ultimate Creator!!! I love that He has allowed us freedom to play, move, stretch, express, play with perspectives, experiment, dabble, start over. This blog forum is that sort of creative outlet for myself and my photography. My garden is my outside canvas. But the ultimate of my creations (and HIS!!!) are these beautiful children. As I watch them stretch and grow, fail and perfect, I revel in their masterpieces and their trials and errors. They are so beautiful to me, whether it is the first scribbles of Lilah becoming interested in crayons at age 2, Luc making his first circle at age 3 or my oldest two dabbling in arts and crafts and using up all my tape in the process! It reminds me of a quote I came across a short while ago.

Many people have said to me ‘What a pity you had such a big family to raise. Think of the novels and the short stories and the poems you never had time to write because of that.’ And I looked at my children and I said, ‘These are my poems. These are my short stories.’     ~Olga Masters

And that just about sums it all up!

An Unschooling Day

Tuesdays…Adam’s day off…lazy day…sleep in day…no school day…eat huge breakfast day.

This is how I thought our day would be. I should have known when I prayed a silent prayer at breakfast, “Lord, how do YOU want today to be?” that He would actually respond!

There was no sleeping in – Ivy awoke at 5:30 to nurse, then back at 7ish. Instead I read Dr. Seuss (specifically “The Sneetches”, “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back”, and “What Was I Scared Of?”) to three of the kids as Ivy attempted to eat the pages and Adam slept in (lucky guy!).

Breakfast wasn’t huge, but still wonderful. Carrot muffins, extra sweet and fluffy with real butter and fresh coffee (mint cocoa for the kids) around 9ish thanks to my wonderful husband. Over breakfast we discussed dinosaurs. The kids had been reading at the table (a bad habit for all of us I must say) and Lily wanted to know why she couldn’t find a Pterydactal in the book on flying and swimming dinosaurs. I tried explaining the whole dino family tree and how they had found more fossils of what they thought were Pterydactals but actually ended up being different so they had to come up with new dino names…sort of like the Brontosaurus losing his status and becoming the Apatosaurus. I don’t know if this made sense or not. She couldn’t understand why the toy store would mistakenly call her dinosaur bird a Pterydactal if it was really a Pteronadon. I just left it at the Toy Makers probably didn’t read that science book.

Soon Gabe and Dad were discussing centrifugal force (don’t even ask me how that came up!) and how it is different then centripetal force. So much for our no school day.

I still had plans for a lazy day. I feel even more awful than yesterday, if that’s possible, full of goop and my head all fuzzy. I wanted to curl up on the couch, hope Adam would cater to my needs while I sipped hot tea and read gardening magazines, ignoring the shouts of kids playing as I dreamed of planting the perfect heirloom tomatoes that would turn into the perfect canned tomato sauce!

Instead, here is how our day really went.

First Lilah, over her muffins and cocoa, looked lovingly up at Daddy as she asked if she could pppllleeeaaassseee watch the Letter Factory. Who can say no to that? Luc joined her while the big kids cleaned up the table and mom and dad worked in the kitchen. Soon they were back upstairs wanting to practice letters. I happened to be in the middle of emailing my dear sister when Luc wanted to keep pushing buttons as I was trying to type. He was very interested in the letters he was seeing. So I set him to picking up his toy mess while I let Lilah on and she was thrilled to be pushing letters. At first she wouldn’t do it by herself but kept putting my hand over hers to be sure of herself. She eventually got the hang of it and loved how the letters zoomed across the page.

Meanwhile Luc, while patiently waiting his turn, deciding to pick something from his activity box. I soon saw dinosaur flash cards spread across the floor as Luc purposefully worked and told us the names of all the dinosaurs he picked.

After picking Ivy up and placing her in the playpen (mainly to avoid a dino trauma of an eaten card), I turn around and see that Lily is playing with the Math manipulatives box because she just “wanted” to sort numbers this morning for fun. Lilah soon came to join her and Luc hopped up on the computer (after rerouting him several times to first pick up his dino cards) thrilled that it was his turn for letters. I have fond memories of Gabe doing this same thing a age three.

As the girls are merrily playing with numbers…well, Lilah may have been eating a few…I overheard Dad and Gabe talking statistics. He had set up some sort of mission for Gabe – a probability puzzle. (He tried explaining it to me but it went “whoosh” flying straight over my head!) They were rolling dice and then figuring out through fractions and dividing about statistically getting the same number and which it would be…or something like that!

Then it quieted down somewhat. Luc was still merrily pushing away at buttons as Adam went to pick up my glasses, pay off our library fine, and stop by the store for dinner. Lily, who was very impatiently awaiting her turn at the computer, decided that I could read to her. She pulled a huge stack of books off the shelf and handed me one. It turned out to be this little gem currently out of print.

"Birds, Frogs, and Moonlight" - Haiku translated by Sylvia Cassedy and Kunihiro Suetke and illustrated by Vo-Dinh

I found this book at a library sale. It cost me 25 cents. We hadn’t actually read it yet. I’m glad we got to today. It has beautiful Haiku poetry (that part I knew) with wonderful watercolor paintings. What I hadn’t really noticed before was the poems in original Japanese on the side and the bottom.

After reading about half the poems, we got into a discussion on Japanese culture and watercoloring which led to Lily wanted to watercolor which led to me trying to see if we even had watercolors left (we didn’t) which led to me pulling out my professional artists Tombow markers as an idea formed in my head. We tested the markers, which have a paint-like brush on one end, and then used a brush with water over it to see if we could get the same effect. Oh how beautiful it was! I had watercolors on my “to buy” list for a future bird study we are doing in the spring and now I could take them off. Here was the perfect kid-friendly way to watercolor…no mess (well, almost none), no spills, no used-up-too-quickly-resulting-in-whiney-kids dilemas…the perfect solution.

Thank you God I breathed as I watched four of my children create. They loved “playing” with concepts and techniques, mixing colors and mediums. They were so purposeful and diligent about their work, respecting the markers and not pressing too hard. I believe they knew this work was meaningful, real, authentic. I was amazed by the finished products (post coming soon) and thrilled with our rabbit trail discovery!

After they cleaned up and we shooed them out to play, I got the baby down for a quick nap and helped with dishes while Adam whipped us up some lobster cream pasta (with from-scratch lobster stock made from the fresh tails), bruschetta, scratch Caesar salad, and strawberry/blackerry shortcakes with freshly whipped cream. What a nice treat!

Then came baths. For the evening’s entertainment we gathered some extra blankets and hunkered down on the couch to watch “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” movie. What a full day! And how thankful I am that my kids are home with me on my husband’s only day off to enjoy it!

The Gift From a Child

holy experience

As I was doling out the last of hugs and kisses while trying to sneak out a basket of laundry, my six year old dear daughter squeezed her arms around me as she said, “Mom…You know how I wanted to try a real school?” Mmmhhhmmm I mumbled, my head fuzzy from taking care of sick kids all day long. “Well, I decided I don’t really want to anymore because then I wouldn’t get to see you all day and I’m glad I get to be with you everyday!”

I stopped, my heart thumping as she wrapped her arms around me and gave me a kiss. THESE are the moments I live for…not empty flattery or the puffing up of my own self, but the genuine child-like love that just filled every empty space inside my heart, flooding my very being with love and my eyes with tears. A child who spoke her truth on a day when I needed it to assuage my tired and weary bones. A day where my hands were dry and cracked from constant washing after wiping little noses. A day where my arms ached because to set the littlest down for even a moment meant wails of hoarse, cracked-throat cries of one who doesn’t understand why she feels as she does and only longs for mom’s arms. A day that housework backed up into piles the size of Mount Everest. A day that my whole body longed for sleep after spending the night before awake every hour doling out meds, nursing, rocking, feeling feverish heads, praying.

Those words were a balm unto my soul. And for this I thank Him and praise Him and call Him HOLY of HOLIES!

42) The words from a dear sweet girl’s soul – the only words He knew I needed to sustain me and pull me through.

43) Honey and Lemon Juice to make home-made cough syrup to ease the littles throats.

44) My husband who was blessed with an unusual day off and could interact with the other children when I could not.

45) The freedom in Christ to not be in bondage to food and be able to enjoy eating Doritos and Chili and Cheese Brats for dinner with nary a vegetable or fruit in sight.

46) The cherry cobbler my husband lovingly made at midnight to enjoy this afternoon.

47) Grocery shopping done early and no need to leave the house.

48) The first ballet my husband will attend with his little girl.

49) Catching a potty success in time.

50) Watching my boy read poetry of his own accord and delighting in it.

51) The squeals of a sprite child yelling in her Dora-loud voice, “Do it again, Daddy…do it again!!!”

52) Planning a garden vision with a loved one and remembering that winter is not the end…soon we will be contending with weeds and wishing for winter again!

53) Imagining the smell and taste of fresh basil.

54) Hearing my husband talk animatedly of the Sunday Sermon.

55) The songs of a two year old as only she can sing them.

56) Dinosaur flashcards and garage-sale make believe.

57) A baby asleep at last so I can compose my thoughts.

58) Peace of trusting and knowing the Lord will provide even if it seems tight.

59) Looking forward to an extended library membership and the doors of reading being opened beyond what I could ever afford for my children.

60) A daughter who creates and writes, authors and pens, illustrates and dreams in DAZZLING ways.

61) Flowers and beads and streams of ribbon that “decorate” my floor.

62) The first ballet my husband will attend with his little girl.

63) Practicing macro-photography.

64) Reading homeschool curriculum catalogs.

65) Planning…planning…planning and then sharing the vision.

66) The call that my eyeglasses are in and I can finally retire the bent, broken, and shattered ones that dangle from my nose now.

A Picture Thought…


by Mary Mapes Dodge

Whenever a snowflake leaves the sky,

It turns and turns to say “Good-by!

Good-by, dear clouds, so cool and gray!”

Then lightly travels on its way.

And when a snowflake finds a tree,

“Good-day!” it says—“Good-day to thee!

Thou art so bare and lonely, dear,

I ’ll rest and call my comrades here.”

But when a snowflake, brave and meek,

Lights on a rosy maiden’s cheek,

It starts—“How warm and soft the day!

’T is summer!”—and it melts away.

Cultivating Contentment

Today I wanted to post inspirational Valentine’s musings with a picture story of my beautiful kids working on a heart banner and cards for friends to share at our upcoming Valentine’s Day Party. The layout would be beautiful. A photo essay color-coordinated in shades of reds and pinks with touches of green to inspire hope as we are looking forward to spring arriving. This was not to be. My dear husband had a middle-of-the-day meeting on healthcare reform for the Hispanic community. He needed my camera.

I didn’t want to give it to him. What about me? I shouted inwardly. I had a plan, a beautiful plan. I wanted to throw an adult temper tantrum. I wanted to tell him that his meeting wasn’t important, even though I knew better.  I knew that I needed to practice self control – hold my tongue. So I longingly gave the camera to him and resigned myself to the kids doing crafts without taking pictures.

How silly you must think. But don’t we all experience this daily in one way or another? I thought back on our ladies class devotional yesterday morning. How to be content. Aren’t we the same as the little girl in the store with her mother shouting, “I WANT…I WANT…I WANT!!!”? Me, mine, my way or no way. We so often slip into this thinking even while trying to walk out a life of following Jesus. So much of the time I think I’m content until I find myself wanting this and wanting that – sometimes reasonable, sometimes not.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Philippians 4:11-12

The ladies discussed how to cultivate contentment in our daily lives. One way was professing thanks over the now. Another way, when the situation is SO bad you can’t even think of a single thanks to give, is to remember. Remember God’s grace and strength through other times that seemed bleak and hopeless. Remember how that hopeless event gave you a perspective, wisdom, or blessings that never would have come unless walking through it.

Well, my itty bitty tantrum certainly wasn’t bleak or hopeless. So I started thinking of ways to say “Thank you, Jesus” instead of the complaining I wanted to do. And I know it isn’t Monday yet where I usually post thanks. But, still, the process I am learning through that act of gratitude is changing me. As I look around me this morning, I am thankful for 32) the soft downy snowflakes falling outside my window, 33) the crumb cake cooked late last night to fill our bellies for breakfast from that same dear husband as he worked on our taxes, 34) the double refund that God graced us with to cover our needs for the year, 35) the ability to give more then we thought for our new church building, 36) time to sit and play a puzzle with my Janie-poo, 37) watching my boy sketch the snow, 38) seeing my oldest daughter play with my youngest daughter and making her laugh, 39) the extra groceries I will be able to bless my mother with, 40) a potty-training success story for the day, 41) and the chance to shed that lie of Santa Claus and tell the true story of St. Nicholas and the real gift of Christmas, the only gift that matters, the gift of the Cross.

How much better is ALL THAT compared to a few pretty pictures?

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. I Timothy 6: 6-8


Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6: 19-21

How much better is the treasure of gratitude then trying to fill my empty earthly desires?

On that note, I will still share some past pictures taken that are  pretty and pink – Valentine’s-y if you will – remembering Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

As well as give a nod to a wonderful new blogger I found (A Field Journal) who is full of all the inspiration for Valentine’s Day that I can’t provide today. Just click on her link in my side bar under Blogroll. It is a treasure trove of everything vintage and shabby chic that I love! You can even sign up for her Natural Historie correspondence where she will send you lovely things in your inbox – a breath of fresh air in the middle of a technical box of computer wires where you long to feel and touch the lovely.

The only pic I got this morning...that wonderful crumb cake I was mentioning next to my favorite tea cup.

A wild strawberry from our backyard.

My favorite rose tea pot from England passed down by my mother-in-law.

The tissue paper of roses...the moss rose.

The delicate skin of baby toes.

Roses are red, violets are blue. These violets are pretty so I'm sharing them with you!

This picture says it all!!!

Thankful this week for…

holy experience

As I sat down to write today, I was disheartened. I couldn’t think of a list of things I really wanted to shout out thanks for. And I had no beautiful pictures to show in color what my heart expressed. But as I started the numbering (we’re at blessing 16 today), a beautiful thing happened…the thanks came pouring out. Not big thank you’s but little thank you’s. Still, they are the thank you’s that REALLY count – the kind where life just couldn’t continue if they weren’t there. Today I get to shout even these little thank you’s as a praise to my biggest God who hears every one, even the smallest. So today I will let the words speak where pictures can’t.

16. Knee socks that keep my legs cozy on one more day that it’s snowing…AGAIN!!!

17. The money that was exactly enough to buy new eye glasses, a book of stamps, some milk and eggs.

18. The grace to make it home in time.

19. A dear husband who had lunch made when I came home.

20. A baby who didn’t cry to be nursed while I was, unavoidably, away.

21. A daughter who thinks the deep thoughts as the Spirit fosters her heart.

22. Dinosaur roars echoing up from the basement.

23. Siblings who watch out to protect one another. (Thank you, Lilah, for informing me that Ivy will not be getting a shot.)

24. Kids who love to read.

25. A bathroom with a lock.

26. Goldfish crackers that fill and delight little tummies…even if that means they’re all over my floor in a million crumbled pieces!

27. An encouraging word from a precious lady who is graced with just the right thing to say as a blessing to me this day.

28. Budget cuts that, instead of depressing, give peace-giving life to my home!

29. Friends to have real conversations with and ask the hard questions.

30. Safe havens that feed the soul and offer community – the very place where we get to serve and give out grace.

31. Ideas that loom large, take shape and are given form only through the Creator who’s very ideas are pressed into our image.